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Full text of "Flying for France : with the American escadrille at Verdun"


FLYI 
FRANCE 




JAMES R.MSCONNELL 



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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

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FLYING FOR FRANCE 




JAMES R. McCONNELL 

" I frankly confess to a feeling of marked satisfaction at re- 
ceiving that grade [Sergeant] in the world's finest army" 

(See page 45) 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

With the American Escadrille 
at Verdun 



BY 
JAMES R. McCONNELL 

Sergeant-Pilot in the French Flying Corps 




Illustrated front Photographs 

through the kindness of Mr. Paul 

Rockwell 



Garden City New York 

DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 

1917 



Copyright, 1916, 1917, by 
DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 

All rights reserved, including that of 

translation into foreign languages, 

including the Scandinavian 



To 
MRS. ALICE S. WEEKS 

Who having lost a splendid son in the 
French Army has given to a great number of 
us other Americans in the war the tender 
sympathy and help of a mother. 



O 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

Introduction xi 

By F. C. P. 

CHAPTER 

I. Verdun 3 

II. From Verdun to the Somme 74 

III. Personal Letters from Ser- 

geant McConnell ... 120 

IV. How France Trains Pilot 

Aviators 140 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

James R. McConnell . . Frontispiece 

FACING PAGE 

Some of the Americans Who are 
Flying for France .... 18 

Two Members of the American Es- 
cadrille, of the French Flying 
Service, Who Were Killed Flying 
For France 50 

" Whiskey." The Lion and Mascot 
of the American Flying Squadron 
in France 82 

Kiffin Rockwell, of Asheville, N. C, 
Who Was Killed in an Air Duel 
Over Verdun 98 

Sergeant Lufbery in one of the New 
Nieuports in Which He Convoyed 
the Bombardment Fleet Which 
Attacked Oberndorf . . . . 114 



INTRODUCTION 

One day in January, 1915, I saw 
Jim McConnell in front of the Court 
House at Carthage, North Carolina. 
"Well," he said, "I'm all fixed up and 
am leaving on Wednesday." " Where 
for?" I asked. "I've got a job to 
drive an ambulance in France, " was 
his answer. 

And then he went on to tell me, 
first, that as he saw it the greatest 
event in history was going on right at 
hand and that he would be missing 
the opportunity of a lifetime if he 
did not see it. "These Sand Hills," 
he said "will be here forever, but the 
war won't; and so I'm going." Then, 
as an afterthought, he added: "And 

xi 



INTRODUCTION 



I'll be of some use, too, not just a sight- 
seer looking on; that wouldn't be fair." 

So he went. He joined the Ameri- 
can ambulance service in the Vosges, 
was mentioned more than once in the 
orders of the day for conspicuous brav- 
ery in saving wounded under fire, and 
received the much-coveted Croix de 
Guerre. 

Meanwhile, he wrote interesting 
letters home. And his point of view 
changed, even as does the point of 
view of all Americans who visit Eu- 
rope. From the attitude of an ad- 
venturous spirit anxious to see the 
excitement, his letters showed a new 
belief that any one who goes to France 
and is not able and willing to do more 
than his share — to give everything in 
him toward helping the wounded and 
suffering — has no business there. 

xii 



INTRODUCTION 



And as time went on, still a new 
note crept into his letters; the first 
admiration for France was strength- 
ened and almost replaced by a new 
feeling— a profound conviction that 
France and the French people were 
fighting the fight of liberty against 
enormous odds. The new spirit of 
France — the spirit of the "Marseil- 
laise," strengthened by a grim deter- 
mination and absolute certainty of 
being right — pervades every line he 
writes. So he gave up the ambulance 
service and enlisted in the French 
flying corps along with an ever- 
increasing number of other Americans. 

The spirit which pervades them 
is something above the spirit of ad- 
venture that draws many to war; it is 
the spirit of a man who has found 
an inspiring duty toward the advance- 
xiii 



INTRODUCTION 



ment of liberty and humanity and is 
glad and proud to contribute what he 
can. 

His last letters bring out a new 
point — the assurance of victory of a 
just cause. "Of late," he writes, 
"things are much brighter and one 
can feel a certain elation in the air. 
Victory, before, was a sort of aca- 
demic certainty; now, it is felt.'* 

F. C. P. 

November 10, 1916. 



3QV 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 
CHAPTER I 

VERDUN 

Beneath the canvas of a huge hangar 
mechanicians are at work on the motor 
of an airplane. Outside, on the bor- 
ders of an aviation field, others loiter 
awaiting their aerial charge's return 
from the sky. Near the hangar stands 
a hut-shaped tent. In front of it 
several short-winged biplanes are lined 
up ; inside it three or four young men 
are lolling in wicker chairs. 

They wear the uniform of French 
army aviators. These uniforms, and 
the grim-looking machine guns 
3 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

mounted on the upper planes of the 
little aircraft, are the only warlike 
note in a pleasantly peaceful scene. 
The war seems very remote. It is 
hard to believe that the greatest of all 
battles — Verdun — rages only twenty- 
five miles to the north, and that the 
field and hangars and mechanicians 
and aviators and airplanes are all 
playing a part therein. 

Suddenly there is the distant hum 
of a motor. One of the pilots emerges 
from the tent and gazes fixedly up into 
the blue sky. He points, and one 
glimpses a black speck against the blue, 
high overhead. The sound of the 
motor ceases, and the speck grows 
larger. It moves earthward in steep 
dives and circles, and as it swoops 
closer, takes on the shape of an airplane. 
Now one can make out the red, white, 
4 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

and blue circles under the wings which 
mark a French war-plane, and the dis- 
tinctive insignia of the pilot on its sides. 

" Ton patron arrive /" one mechani- 
cian cries to another. "Your boss is 
coming!" 

The machine dips sharply over the 
top of a hangar, straightens out again 
near the earth at a dizzy speed a few 
feet above it and, losing momentum 
in a surprisingly short time, hits the 
ground with tail and wheels. It 
bumps along a score of yards and 
then, its motor whirring again, turns, 
rolls toward the hangar, and stops. A 
human form, enveloped in a species of 
garment for all the world like a diver's 
suit, and further adorned with goggles 
and a leather hood, rises unsteadily in 
the cockpit, clambers awkwardly over- 
board and slides down to terra firma. 
5 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

A group of soldiers, enjoying a brief 
holiday from the trenches in a canton- 
ment near the field, straggle forward 
and gather timidly about the airplane, 
listening open-mouthed for what its 
rider is about to say. 

"Hell!" mumbles that gentleman, 
as he starts divesting himself of his 
flying garb. 

"What's wrong now?" inquires one 
of the tenants of the tent. 

"Everything, or else I've gone 
nutty," is the indignant reply, de- 
livered while disengaging a leg from 
its Teddy Bear trousering. "Why, 
I emptied my whole roller on a 
Boche this morning, .'. point blank at 
not fifteen metres off. His machine 
gun quit firing and his propeller 
wasn't turning and yet the darn fool 
just hung up there as if he were tied 
6 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

to a cloud. Say, I was so sure I had 
him it made me sore — felt like running 
into him and yelling, 'Now, you fall, 
you bum!'" 

The eyes of the poilus register sur^ 
prise. Not a word of this dialogue, 
delivered in purest American, is in- 
telligible to them. Why is an aviator 
in a French uniform speaking a foreign 
tongue, they mutually ask them- 
selves. Finally one of them, a little 
chap in a uniform long since bleached 
of its horizon-blue colour by the mud 
of the firing line, whisperingly inter- 
rogates a mechanician as to the iden- 
tity of these strange air folk. 

"But they are the Americans, my 
old one," the latter explains with 
noticeable condescension. 

Marvelling afresh, the infantrymen 
demand further details. They learn 
7 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

that they are witnessing the return of 
the American Escadrille — composed 
of Americans who have volunteered 
to fly for France for the duration of 
the war — to their station near Bar-le- 
Due, twenty-five miles south of Ver- 
dun, from a flight over the battle 
front of the Meuse. They have barely 
had time to digest this knowledge 
when other dots appear in the sky, 
and one by one turn into airplanes 
as they wheel downward. Finally all 
six of the machines that have been 
aloft are back on the ground and the 
American Escadrille has one more 
sortie over the German lines to its 
credit. 

PERSONNEL OF THE ESCADRILLE 

Like all worth-while institutions, 
the American Escadrille, of which I 
8 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

have the honour of being a member, 
was of gradual growth. When the 
war began, it is doubtful whether 
anybody anywhere envisaged the pos- 
sibility of an American entering the 
French aviation service. Yet, by the 
fall of 1915, scarcely more than a 
year later, there were six Americans 
serving as full-fledged pilots, and now, 
in the summer of 1916, the list num- 
bers fifteen or more, with twice that 
number training for their pilot's li- 
cense in the military aviation schools. 
The pioneer of them all was William 
Thaw, of Pittsburg, who is to-day the 
only American holding a commission 
in the French flying corps. Lieu- 
tenant Thaw, a flyer of considerable 
reputation in America before the war, 
had enlisted in the Foreign Legion in 
August, 1914. With considerable dif- 
9 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

ficulty he had himself transferred, 
in the early part of 1915, into avia- 
tion, and the autumn of that year 
found him piloting a Caudron bi- 
plane, and doing excellent observa- 
tion work. At the same time, Ser- 
geants Norman Prince, of Boston, 
and Elliot Gowdin, of New York — 
who were the first to enter the avia- 
tion service coming directly from the 
United States — were at the front on 
Voisin planes with a cannon mounted 
in the bow. 

Sergeant Bert Hall, who signs from 
the Lone Star State and had got him- 
self shifted from the Foreign Legion to 
aviation soon after Thaw, was flying a 
Nieuport fighting machine, and, a 
little later, instructing less-advanced 
students of the air in the Avord Train- 
ing School. His particular chum in the 
10 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Foreign Legion, James Bach, who also 
had become an aviator, had the distress- 
ing distinction soon after he reached 
the front of becoming the first Amer- 
ican to fall into the hands of the enemy. 
Going to the assistance of a companion 
who had broken down in landing a spy 
in the German lines, Bach smashed his 
machine against a tree. Both he and 
his French comrade were captured, 
and Bach was twice court-martialed 
by the Germans on suspicion of being 
an American franc-tireur — the penalty 
for which is death ! He was acquitted 
but of course still languishes in a 
prison camp "somewhere in Ger- 
many." The sixth of the original 
sextet was Adjutant Didier Masson, 
who did exhibition flying in the States 
until — Carranza having grown am- 
bitious in Mexico — he turned his 
11 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

talents to spotting los Federates for 
General Obregon. When the real 
war broke out, Masson answered the 
call of his French blood and was soon 
flying and fighting for the land of his 
ancestors. 

Of the other members of the esca- 
drille Sergeant Givas Lufbery, Ameri- 
can citizen and soldier, but dweller in 
the world at large, was among the 
earliest to wear the French airman's 
wings. Exhibition work with a French 
pilot in the Far East prepared him 
efficiently for the task of patiently 
unloading explosives on to German 
military centres from a slow-moving 
Voisin which was his first mount. 
Upon the heels of Lufbery came two 
more graduates of the Foreign Legion 
— Kiffin Rockwell, of Asheville, N. C., 
who had been wounded at Carency; 
12 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Victor Chapman, of New York, who 
after recovering from his wounds 
became an airplane bomb-dropper 
and so caught the craving to become a 
pilot. At about this time one Paul 
Pavelka, whose birthplace was Mad: 
son, Conn., and who from the age of 
fifteen had sailed the seven seas, 
managed to slip out of the Foreign 
Legion into aviation and joined the 
other Americans at Pau. 

There seems to be a fascination to 
aviation, particularly when it is cou- 
pled with fighting. Perhaps it's be- 
cause the game is new, but more 
probably because as a rule nobody 
knows anything about it. Whatever 
be the reason, adventurous young 
Americans were attracted by it in 
rapidly increasing numbers. Man^ 
of them, of course, never got fasci- 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

nated beyond the stage of talking 
about joining. Among the chaps 
serving with the American ambulance 
field sections a good many imagina- 
tions were stirred, and a few actually 
did enlist, when, toward the end of 
the summer of 1915, the Ministry of 
War, finding that the original Ameri- 
can pilots had made good, grew 
more liberal in considering applica- 
tions. 

Chouteau Johnson, of New York; 
Lawrence Rumsey, of Buffalo ; Dudley 
Hill, of Peekskill, N. Y.; and Clyde 
Balsley, of El Paso; one after another 
doffed the ambulance driver's khaki 
for the horizon-blue of the French 
flying corps. All of them had seen 
plenty of action, collecting the 
wounded under fire, but they were all 
tired of being non-combatant spec- 
Id 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

tators. More or less the same feeling 
actuated me, I suppose. I had come 
over from Carthage, N. C, in Jan- 
uary, 1915, and worked with an 
American ambulance section in the 
Bois-le-Pretre. All along I had been 
convinced that the United States 
ought to aid in the struggle against 
Germany. With that conviction, it 
was plainly up to me to do more than 
drive an ambulance. The more I 
saw the splendour of the fight the 
French were fighting, the more I felt 
like an embusque — what the British 
call a "shirker." So I made up my 
mind to go into aviation. 

A special channel had been created 
for the reception of applications from 
Americans, and my own was favour- 
ably replied to within a few days. 
It took four days more to pass through 
15 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

all the various departments, sign 
one's name to a few hundred papers, 
and undergo the physical examina- 
tions. Then I was sent to the avia- 
tion depot at Dijon and fitted out 
with a uniform and personal equip- 
ment. The next stop was the school 
at Pau, where I was to be taught to 
fly. My elation at arriving there was 
second only to my satisfaction at 
being a French soldier. It was a vast 
improvement, I thought, in the Amer- 
ican Ambulance. 

Talk about forming an all- American 
flying unit, or escadrille, was rife while 
I was at Pau. What with the pilots 
already breveted, and the eleves, or 
pupils in the training-schools, there 
were quite enough of our compatriots 
to man the dozen airplanes in one 
escadrille. Every day somebody "had 

m 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

it absolutely straight" that we were 
to become a unit at the front, and 
every other day the report turned out 
to be untrue. But at last, in the 
month of February, our dream came 
true. We learned that a captain 
had actually been assigned to com- 
mand an American escadrille and 
that the Americans at the front had 
been recalled and placed under his 
orders. Soon afterward we eleves got 
another delightful thrill. 

THREE TYPES OF FRENCH AIR SERVICE 

Thaw, Prince, Cowdin, and the 
other veterans were training on the 
Nieuport ! That meant the American 
Escadrille was to fly the Nieuport 
— the best type of avion de chasse — 
and hence would be a fighting unit. 
It is necessary to explain parentheti- 
17 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

cally here that French military avia- 
tion, generally speaking, is divided 
into three groups — the avions de chasse 
or airplanes of pursuit, which are 
used to hunt down enemy aircraft 
or to fight them off; avions de bom- 
bardement, big, unwieldy monsters 
for use in bombarding raids; and 
avions de reglage, cumbersome creat- 
ures designed to regulate artillery 
fire, take photographs, and do scout 
duty. The Nieuport is the smallest, 
fastest-rising, fastest-moving biplane 
in the French service. It can travel 
110 miles an hour, and is a one-man 
apparatus with a machine gun mounted 
on its roof and fired by the pilot 
with one hand while with the other 
and his feet he operates his controls. 
The French call their Nieuport pilots 
the "aces" of the air. No wonder 
18 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

we were tickled to be included in 
that august brotherhood ! 

Before the American Escadrille 
became an established fact, Thaw 
and Cowdin, who had mastered the 
Nieuport, managed to be sent to the 
Verdun front. While there Cowdin 
was credited with having brought 
down a German machine and was 
proposed for the Medaille Militaire, 
the highest decoration that can be 
awarded a non-commissioned officer 
or private. 

After completing his training, re- 
ceiving his military pilot's brevet, and 
being perfected on the type of plane 
he is to use at the front, an aviator is 
ordered to the reserve headquarters 
near Paris to await his call. Kiffin 
Rockwell and Victor Chapman had 

been there for months, and I had just 
19 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

arrived, when on the 16th of April 
orders came for the Americans to 
join their escadrille at Luxeuil, in the 
Vosges. 

The rush was breathless! Never 
were flying clothes and fur coats 
drawn from the quartermaster, be- 
longings packed, and red tape in the 
various administrative bureaux un- 
furled, with such headlong haste. 
In a few hours we were aboard the 
train, panting, but happy. Our party 
consisted of Sergeant Prince, and 
Rockwell, Chapman, and myself, who 
were only corporals at that time. 
We were joined at Luxeuil by Lieu- 
tenant Thaw and Sergeants Hall and 
Gowdin. 

For the veterans our arrival at the 
front was devoid of excitement; for 
the three neophytes — Rockwell, Chap- 
20 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

1 - - - I III, .ljm- 

man, and myself — it was the beginning 
of a new existence, the entry into 
an unknown world. Of course Rock- 
well and Chapman had seen plenty 
of warfare on the ground, but war- 
fare in the air was as novel to them 
as to me. For us all it contained 
unlimited possibilities for initiative 
and service to France, and for them 
it must have meant, too, the restora- 
tion of personality lost during those 
months in the trenches with the 
Foreign Legion. Rockwell summed 
it up characteristically. 

"Well, we're off for the races," he 
remarked. 

PILOT LIFE AT THE FRONT 

There is a considerable change in 
the life of a pilot when he arrives on 
the front. During the training period 
21 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 



he is subject to rules and regulations 
as stringent as those of the barracks. 
But once assigned to duty over the 
firing line he receives the treatment 
accorded an officer, no matter what 
his grade. Save when he is flying 
or on guard, his time is his own. 
There are no roll calls or other military 
frills, and in place of the mink he 
slept upon as an eleve, he finds a 
regular bed in a room to himself, 
and the services of an orderly. Even 
men of higher rank who although 
connected with his escadrille are not 
pilots, treat him with respect. His 
two mechanicians are under his orders. 
Being volunteers, we Americans are 
shown more than the ordinary con- 
sideration by the ever-generous French 
Government, which sees to it that we 
have the best of everything. 
22 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

On our arrival at Luxeuil we were 
met by Captain Thenault, the French 
commander of the American Escadrille 
— officially known as No. 124, by 
the way — and motored to the aviation 
field in one of the staff cars assigned 
to us. I enjoyed that ride. Lolling 
back against the soft leather cushions, 
I recalled how in my apprenticeship 
days at Pau I had had to walk six 
miles for my laundry. 

The equipment awaiting us at the 
field was even more impressive than 
our automobile. Everything was 
brand new, from the fifteen Fiat 
trucks to the office, magazine, and 
rest tents. And the men attached 
to the escadrille! At first sight they 
seemed to outnumber the Nicaraguan 
army — mechanicians, chauffeurs, ar- 
mourers, motorcyclists, telephonists, 
23 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

wireless operators, Red Cross stretcher 
bearers, clerks! Afterward I learned 
they totalled seventy-odd, and that 
all of them were glad to be connected 
with the American Escadrille. 

In their hangars stood our trim 
little Nieuports. I looked mine over 
with a new feeling of importance and 
gave orders to my mechanicians for 
the mere satisfaction of being able to. 
To find oneself the sole proprietor of a 
fighting airplane is quite a treat, 
let me tell you. One gets accustomed 
to it, though, after one has used up 
two or three of them — at the French 
Government's expense. 

Rooms were assigned to us in a villa 
adjoining the famous hot baths of 
Luxeuil, where Caesar's cohorts were 
wont to besport themselves. We 
messed with our officers, Captain 
24 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Thenault and Lieutenant de Laage de 
Mux, at the best hotel in town. An 
automobile was always on hand to 
carry us to the field. I began to 
wonder whether I was a summer 
resorter instead of a soldier. 

Among the pilots who had wel- 
comed us with open arms, we dis- 
covered the famous Captain Happe, 
commander of the Luxeuil bombard- 
ment group. The doughty bomb- 
dispenser, upon whose head the Ger- 
mans have set a price, was in his 
quarters. After we had been intro- 
duced, he pointed to eight little boxes 
arranged on a table. 

"They contain Croix de Guerre for 
the families of the men I lost on 
my last trip," he explained, and 
he added: "It's a good thing you're 
here to go along with us for protec- 
25 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

tion. There are lots of Bodies in this 
sector." 

I thought of the luxury we were 
enjoying: our comfortable beds, baths, 
and motor cars, and then I recalled 
the ancient custom of giving a man 
selected for the sacrifice a royal time 
of it before the appointed day. 

To acquaint us with the few places 
where a safe landing was possible we 
were motored through the Vosges 
Mountains and on into Alsace. It 
was a delightful opportunity to see 
that glorious countryside, and we 
appreciated it the more because we 
knew its charm would be lost when 
we surveyed it from the sky. From 
the air the ground presents no scenic 
effects. The ravishing beauty of the 
Val d'Ajol, the steep mountain sides 
bristling with a solid mass of giant 
26 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

^— ■ 

pines, the myriads of glittering cas- 
cades tumbling downward through 
fairylike avenues of verdure, the roar- 
ing, tossing torrent at the foot of the 
slope — all this loveliness, seen from 
an airplane at 12,000 feet, fades into 
flat splotches of green traced with a 
tiny ribbon of silver. 

The American Escadrille was sent 
to Luxeuil primarily to acquire the 
team work necessary to a flying unit. 
Then, too, the new pilots needed a 
taste of anti-aircraft artillery to famil- 
iarize them with the business of avia- 
tion over a battlefield. They shot well 
in that sector, too. Thaw's machine 
was hit at an altitude of 13,000 feet. 

THE ESCADRILLE' S FIRST SORTIE 

The memory of the first sortie we 
made as an escadrille will always re- 

27 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

main fresh in my mind because it was 
also my first trip over the lines. We 
were to leave at six in the morning. 
Captain Thenault pointed out on his 
aerial map the route we were to follow. 
Never having flown over this region 
before, I was afraid of losing myself. 
Therefore, as it is easier to keep other 
airplanes in sight when one is above 
them, I began climbing as rapidly 
as possible, meaning to trail along 
in the wake of my companions. Un- 
less one has had practice in flying in 
formation, however, it is hard to 
keep in contact. The diminutive 
avions de chasse are the merest pin- 
points against the great sweep of 
landscape below and the limitless 
heavens above. The air was misty 
and clouds were gathering. Ahead 
there seemed a barrier of them. Al- 
28 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

though as I looked down the ground 
showed plainly, in the distance every- 
thing was hazy. Forging up above 
the mist, at 7,000 feet, I lost the 
others altogether. Even when they 
are not closely joined, the clouds, 
seen from immediately above, appear 
as a solid bank of white. The spaces 
between are indistinguishable. It is 
like being in an Arctic ice field. 

To the south I made out the Alps. 
Their glittering peaks projected up 
through the white sea about me like 
majestic icebergs. Not a single plane 
was visible anywhere, and I was grow- 
ing very uncertain about my position. 
My splendid isolation had become 
oppressive, when, one by one, the 
others began bobbing up above the 
cloud level, and I had company again. 

We were over Belfort and headed 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

for the trench lines. The cloud banks 
dropped behind, and below us we 
saw the smiling plain of Alsace stretch- 
ing eastward to the Rhine. It was 
distinctly pleasurable, flying over this 
conquered land . Following the course 
of the canal that runs to the Rhine, 
I sighted, from a height of 13,000 
feet over Dannemarie, a series of 
brown, woodworm-like tracings on 
the ground — the trenches! 

SHRAPNEL THAT COULDN'T BE HEARD 

My attention was drawn elsewhere 
almost immediately, however. Two 
balls of black smoke had suddenly 
appeared close to one of the machines 
ahead of me, and with the same dis- 
concerting abruptness similar balls 
began to dot the sky above, below, 
and on all sides of us. We were being 
30 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

shot at with shrapnel. It was in- 
teresting to watch the flash of the 
bursting shells, and the attendant 
smoke puffs — black, white, or yellow, 
depending on the kind of shrapnel 
used. The roar of the motor drowned 
the noise of the explosions. Strangely 
enough, my feelings about it were 
wholly impersonal. 

We turned north after crossing the 
lines. Mulhouse seemed just below 
us, and I noted with a keen sense of 
satisfaction our invasion of real Ger- 
man territory. The Rhine, too, looked 
delightfully accessible. As we con- 
tinued northward I distinguished the 
twin lakes of Gerardmer sparkling in 
their emerald setting. Where the 
lines crossed the Hartmannsweiler- 
kopf there were little spurts of brown 
smoke as shells burst in the trenches. 
31 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

One could scarcely pick out the old 
zity of Thann from among the nu- 
merous neighbouring villages, so tiny 
it seemed in the valley's mouth. I 
had never been higher than 7,000 feet 
and was unaccustomed to reading 
country from a great altitude. It was 
also bitterly cold, and even in my 
fur-lined combination I was shivering. 
I noticed, too, that I had to take long, 
deep breaths in the rarefied atmos- 
phere. Looking downward at a cer- 
tain angle, I saw what at first I took to 
be a round, shimmering pool of water. 
It was simply the effect of the sun- 
light on the congealing mist. We 
had been keeping an eye out for 
German machines since leaving our 
lines, but none had shown up. It 
wasn't surprising, for we were too 
many. 

32 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Only four days later, however, Rock- 
well brought down the escadrille's 
first plane in his initial aerial combat. 
He was flying alone when, over Than^ 
he came upon a German on recon- 
naissance. He dived and the German 
turned toward his own lines, opening 
fire from a long distance. Rockwell 
kept straight after him. Then, clos- 
ing to within thirty yards, he pressed 
on the release of his machine gun, 
and saw the enemy gunner fall back- 
ward and the pilot crumple up side- 
ways in his seat. The plane flopped 
downward and crashed to earth just 
behind the German trenches. Swoop- 
ing close to the ground Rockwell saw 
its debris burning away brightly. 
He had turned the trick with but four 
shots and only one German bullet 
had struck his Nieuport. An ob- 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

servation post telephoned the news 
before Rockwell's return, and he got a 
great welcome. All Luxeuil smiled 
upon him — particularly the girls. But 
he couldn't stay to enjoy his popu- 
larity. The escadrille was ordered to 
the sector of Verdun. 

While in a way we were sorry to 
leave Luxeuil, we naturally didn't 
regret the chance to take part in the 
aerial activity of the world's greatest 
battle. The night before our de- 
parture some German aircraft de- 
stroyed four of our tractors and killed 
six men with bombs, but even that 
caused little excitement compared 
with going to Verdun. We would get 
square with the Boches over Verdun, 
we thought — it is impossible to chase 
airplanes at night, so the raiders made 
a safe getaway , 

34 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 
OFF TO VERDUN 

As soon as we pilots had left in our 
machines, the trucks and tractors 
set out in convoy, carrying the men 
and equipment. The Nieuports car- 
ried us to our new post in a little more 
than an hour. We stowed them away 
in the hangars and went to have a 
look at our sleeping quarters. A 
commodious villa half way between 
the town of Bar-le-Duc and the avia- 
tion field had been assigned to us, and 
comforts were as plentiful as at 
Luxeuil. 

Our really serious work had begun, 
however, and we knew it. Even as 
far behind the actual fighting as Bar- 
le-Duc one could sense one's prox- 
imity to a vast military operation. 
The endless convoys of motor trucks, 
35 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the fast-flowing stream of troops, and 
the distressing number of ambulances 
brought realization of the near pres- 
ence of a gigantic battle. 

Within a twenty-mile radius of the 
Verdun front aviation camps abound. 
Our escadrille was listed on the sched- 
ule with the other fighting units, each 
of which has its specified flying hours, 
rotating so there is always an escadrille 
de chasse over the lines. A field wire- 
less to enable us to keep track of the 
movements of enemy planes became 
part of our equipment. 

Lufbery joined us a few days after 
our arrival. He was followed by 
Johnson and Balsley, who had been 
on the air guard over Paris. Hill and 
Rumsey came next, and after them 
Masson and Pavelka. Nieuports were 
supplied them from the nearest depot, 
36 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

and as soon as they had mounted 
their instruments and machine guns, 
they were on the job with the rest 
of us. Fifteen Americans are or 
have been members of the American 
Escadrille, but there have never been 
so many as that on duty at any one 
time. 

BATTLES IN THE AIR 

Before we were fairly settled at 
Bar-le-Duc, Hall brought down a 
German observation craft and Thaw a 
Fokker. Fights occurred on almost 
every sortie. The Germans seldom 
cross into our territory, unless on a 
bombarding jaunt, and thus practi- 
cally all the fighting takes place on 
their side of the line. Thaw dropped 
his Fokker in the morning, and on the 
afternoon of the same day there was a 
37 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

big combat far behind the German 
trenches. Thaw was wounded in the 
arm, and an explosive bullet detonat- 
ing on Rockwell's wind-shield tore 
several gashes in his face. Despite 
the blood which was blinding him 
Rockwell managed to reach an avia- 
tion field and land. Thaw, whose 
wound bled profusely, landed in a 
dazed condition just within our lines. 
He was too weak to walk, and French 
soldiers carried him to a field dressing- 
station, whence he was sent to Paris 
for further treatment. Rockwell's 
wounds were less serious and he in- 
sisted on flying again almost imme- 
diately. 

A week or so later Chapman was 
wounded. Considering the number 
of fights he had been in and the cour- 
age with which he attacked it was a 
38 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

miracle he had not been hit before. 
He always fought against odds and far 
within the enemy's country. He flew 
more than any of us, never missing 
an opportunity to go up, and never 
coming down until his gasolene was 
giving out. His machine was a sieve 
of patched-up bullet holes. His nerve 
was almost superhuman and his de- 
votion to the cause for which he 
fought sublime. The day he was 
wounded he attacked four machines. 
Swooping down from behind, one of 
them, a Fokker, riddled Chapman's 
plane. One bullet cut deep into his 
scalp, but Chapman, a master pilot, 
escaped from - the trap, and fired 
several shots to show he was still safe. 
A stability control had been severed 
by a bullet. Chapman held the 
broken rod in one hand, managed his 
39 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

machine with the other, and suc- 
ceeded in landing on a near-by avia- 
tion field. His wound was dressed, 
his machine repaired, and he im- 
mediately took the air in pursuit of 
some more enemies. He would take 
no rest, and with bandaged head 
continued to fly and fight. 

The escadrille's next serious en- 
counter with the foe took place a 
few days later. Rockwell, Balsley, 
Prince, and Captain Thenault were 
surrounded by a large number of 
Germans, who, circling about them, 
commenced firing at long range. Re- 
alizing their numerical inferiority, 
the Americans and their commander 
sought the safest way out by attack- 
ing the enemy machines nearest the 
French lines. Rockwell, Prince, and 
the captain broke through success- 
40 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

fully, but Balsley found himself 
hemmed in. He attacked the Ger- 
man nearest him, only to receive an 
explosive bullet in his thigh. In try- 
ing to get away by a vertical dive 
his machine went into a corkscrew 
and swung over on its back. Extra 
cartridge rollers dislodged from their 
case hit his arms. He was tumbling 
straight toward the trenches, but by 
a supreme effort he regained control, 
righted the plane, and landed without 
disaster in a meadow just behind the 
firing line. 

Soldiers carried him to the shelter 
of a near-by fort, and later he was 
taken to a field hospital, where he 
lingered for days between life and 
death. Ten fragments of the ex- 
plosive bullet were removed from his 
stomach. He bore up bravely, and 
41 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

became the favourite of the wounded 
officers in whose ward he lay. When 
we flew over to see him they would 
say: II est un brave petit gars, Uavi- 
ateur americain. [He's a brave little 
fellow, the American aviator.] On 
a shelf by his bed, done up in a hand- 
kerchief, he kept the pieces of bullet 
taken out of him, and under them 
some sheets of paper on which he 
was trying to write to his mother, 
back in El Paso. 

Balsley was awarded the Medaille 
Militaire and the Croix de Guerre, 
but the honours scared him. He had 
seen them decorate officers in the 
ward before they died. 

chapman's last fight 

Then came Chapman's last fight. 
Before leaving, he had put two bags 

42 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

of oranges in his machine to take to 
Balsley, who liked to suck them to re- 
lieve his terrible thirst, after the 
day's flying was over. There was an 
aerial struggle against odds, far within 
the German lines, and Chapman, to 
divert their fire from his comrades, 
engaged several enemy airmen at 
once. He sent one tumbling to 
earth, and had forced the others off 
when two more swooped down upon 
him. Such a fight is a matter of 
seconds, and one cannot clearly see 
what passes. Lufbery and Prince, 
whom Chapman had defended so 
gallantly, regained the French lines. 
They told us of the combat, and we 
waited on the field for Chapman's re- 
turn. He was always the last in, so 
we were not much worried. Then a 
pilot from another fighting escadrille 
43 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

telephoned us that he had seen a 
Nieuport falling. A little later the 
observer of a reconnaissance airplane 
called up and told us how he had wit- 
nessed Chapman's fall. The wings of 
the plane had buckled, and it had 
dropped like a stone he said. 

We talked in lowered voices after 
that; we could read the pain in one 
another's eyes. If only it could have 
been some one else, was what we all 
thought, I suppose. To lose Victor 
was not an irreparable loss to us 
merely, but to France, and to the 
world as well. I kept thinking of 
him lying over there, and of the 
oranges he was taking to Balsley. 
As I left the field I caught sight of 
Victor's mechanician leaning against 
the end of our hangar. He was 

looking northward into the sky where 
44 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

his patron had vanished, and his face 
was very sad. 

PROMOTIONS AND DECORATIONS 

By this time Prince and Hall had 
been made adjutants, and we cor- 
porals transformed into sergeants. 
I frankly confess to a feeling of marked 
satisfaction at receiving that grade 
in the world's finest army. I was a 
far more important person, in my 
own estimation, than I had been as a 
second lieutenant in the militia at 
home. The next impressive event 
was the awarding of decorations. 
We had assisted at that ceremony for 
Cowdin at Luxeuil, but this time three 
of our messmates were to be honoured 
for the Germans they had brought 
down. Rockwell and Hall received 

the Medaille Militaire and the Croix 
45 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

de Guerre, and Thaw, being a lieu- 
tenant, the Legion d'honneur and 
another "palm" for the ribbon of the 
Croix de Guerre he had won previously. 
Thaw, who came up from Paris spe- 
ially for the presentation, still carried 
his arm in a sling. 

There were also decorations for 
Chapman, but poor Victor, who so 
often had been cited in the Orders of the 
Day, was not on hand to receive them. 

THE MORNING SORTIE 

Our daily routine goes on with little 
change. Whenever the weather per- 
mits — that is, when it isn't raining, 
and the clouds aren't too low — we fly 
over the Verdun battlefield at the 
hours dictated by General Headquar- 
ters. As a rule the most successful 
sorties are those in the early morning. 
46 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

We are called while it's still dark. 
Sleepily I try to reconcile the French 
orderly's muttered, Cest Uheure, mon- 
sieur, that rouses me from slumber, 
with the strictly American words and 
music of "When That Midnight Choo 
Choo Leaves for Alabam'" warbled 
by a particularly wide-awake pilot 
in the next room. A few minutes 
later, having swallowed some coffee, 
we motor to the field. The east is 
turning gray as the hangar curtains 
are drawn apart and our machines 
trundled out by the mechanicians. 
All the pilots whose planes are in 
commission — save those remaining be- 
hind on guard — prepare to leave. 
We average from four to six on a 
sortie, unless too many flights have 
been ordered for that day, in which 
case only two or three go out at a time. 
47 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Now the east is pink, and overhead 
the sky has changed from gray to 
pale blue. It is light enough to fly. 
We don our fur-lined shoes and com- 
binations, and adjust the leather fly- 
ing hoods and goggles. A good deal 
of conversation occurs — perhaps be- 
cause, once aloft, there's nobody to 
talk to. 

"Eh, you," one pilot cries jokingly 
to another, "I hope some Boche just 
ruins you this morning, so I won't 
have to pay you the fifty francs you 
won from me last night!" 

This financial reference concerns a 
poker game. 

"You do, do you?" replies the 
other as he swings into his machine. 
"Well, I'd be glad to pass up the fifty 
to see you landed by the Boches. 
You'd make a fine sight walking down 
48 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the street of some German town in 
those wooden shoes and pyjama 
pants. Why don't you dress your- 
self? Don't you know an aviator's 
supposed to look chic ?" 

A sartorial eccentricity on the part 
of one of our colleagues is here re- 
ferred to. 

GETTING UNDER WAY 

The raillery is silenced by a deafen- 
ing roar as the motors are tested. 
Quiet is briefly restored, only to be 
broken by a series of rapid explosions 
incidental to the trying out of machine 
guns. You loudly inquire at what 
altitude we are to meet above the 
field. 

"Fifteen hundred metres — go 

ahead!" comes an answering yell. 

Essence et gaz! [Oil and gas!] you 
49 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

call to your mechanician, adjusting 
your gasolene and air throttles while 
he grips the propeller. 

Contact ! he shrieks, and Contact ! 
you reply. You snap on the switch, 
he spins the propeller, and the motor 
takes. Drawing forward out of line, 
you put on full power, race across the 
grass and take the air. The ground 
drops as the hood slants up before 
you and you seem to be going more 
and more slowly as you rise. At a 
great height you hardly realize you 
are moving. You glance at the clock 
to note the time of your departure, 
and at the oil gauge to see its throb. 
The altimeter registers 650 feet. You 
turn and look back at the field below 
and see others leaving. 

In three minutes you are at about 
4,000 feet. You have been making 
50 




TWO MEMBERS OF THE AMERICAN ESCADRILLE 
Of the French Flying Service, who were killed flying for France 

Upper picture: Norman Prince, of Boston, Mass. 
Lower picture: Victor Chapman, of New York City 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

— i I * « m — 1 i« I M i. J I ii i ■ ■ ■■■ .i i nn ■ ii ■.>■■■■* 

wide circles over the field and watch- 
ing the other machines. At 4,500 
feet you throttle down and wait on 
that level for your companions to 
catch up. Soon the escadrille is 
bunched and off for the lines. You 
begin climbing again, gulping to clear 
your ears in the changing pressure. 
Surveying the other machines, you 
recognize the pilot of each by the 
marks on its side — or by the way he 
flies. The distinguishing marks of 
the Nieuports are various and some- 
times amusing. Bert Hall, for in- 
stance, has Bert painted on the left 
side of his plane and the same word 
reversed (as if spelled backward with 
the left hand) on the right — so an 
aviator passing him on that side at 
great speed will be able to read the 
name without difficulty, he says! 
51 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

The country below has changed 
into a flat surface of varicoloured 
figures. Woods are irregular blocks 
of dark green, like daubs of ink spilled 
on a table; fields are geometrical de- 
signs of different shades of green and 
brown, forming in composite an ultra- 
cubist painting; roads are thin white 
lines, each with its distinctive wind- 
ings and crossings — from which you 
determine your location. The higher 
you are the easier it is to read. 

In about ten minutes you see the 
Meuse sparkling in the morning light, 
and on either side the long line of 
sausage-shaped observation balloons 
far below you. Red-roofed Verdun 
springs into view just beyond. There 
are spots in it where no red shows and 
you know what has happened there 
In the green pasture land bordering 
52 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the town, round flecks of brown indi- 
cate the shell holes. You cross the 
Meuse. 

VERDUN, SEEN FROM THE SKY 

Immediately east and north of 
Verdun there lies a broad, brown band. 
From the Woevre plain it runs west- 
ward to the "S" bend in the Meuse, 
and on the left bank of that famous 
stream continues on into the Argonne 
Forest. Peaceful fields and farms 
and villages adorned that landscape 
a few months ago — when there was no 
Battle of Verdun. Now there is only 
that sinister brown belt, a strip of 
murdered Nature. It seems to be- 
long to another world. Every sign of 
humanity has been swept away. The 
woods and roads have vanished like 
chalk wiped from a blackboard; of 
53 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the villages nothing remains but gray 
smears where stone walls have tum- 
bled together. The great forts of 
Douaumont and Vaux are outlined 
faintly, like the tracings of a finger in 
wet sand. One cannot distinguish 
any one shell crater, as one can on the 
pockmarked fields on either side. On 
the brown band the indentations are 
so closely interlocked that they blend 
into a confused mass of troubled earth. 
Of the trenches only broken, half- 
obliterated links are visible. 

Columns of muddy smoke spurt up 
continually as high explosives tear 
deeper into this ulcered area. During 
heavy bombardment and attacks I 
have seen shells falling like rain. The 
countless towers of smoke remind one 
of Gustave D ore's picture of the 
fiery tombs of the arch-heretics in 
54 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Dante's "Hell." A smoky pall covers 
the sector under fire, rising so high 
that at a height of 1,000 feet one is 
enveloped in its mist-like fumes. Now 
and then monster projectiles hurtling 
through the air close by leave one's 
plane rocking violently in their wake. 
Airplanes have been cut in two by them. 

THE ROAR OF BATTLE — UNHEARD 

For us the battle passes in silence, 
the noise of one's motor deadening 
all other sounds. In the green patches 
behind the brown belt myriads of 
tiny flashes tell where the guns are 
hidden; and those flashes, and the 
smoke of bursting shells, are all we 
see of the fighting. It is a weird 
combination of stillness and havoc, 
the Verdun conflict viewed from the 
sky. 

55 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Far below us, the observation and 
range-finding planes circle over the 
trenches like gliding gulls . At a feeble 
altitude they follow the attacking 
infantrymen and flash back wireless 
reports of the engagement. Only 
through them can communication be 
maintained when, under the barrier 
fire, wires from the front lines are cut. 
Sometimes it falls to our lot to guard 
these machines from Germans eager 
to swoop down on their backs. Sail- 
ing about high above a busy flock of 
them makes one feel like an old mother 
hen protecting her chicks. 

"navigating" in a sea of clouds 

The pilot of an avion de chasse 

must not concern himself with the 

ground, which to him is useful only 

for learning his whereabouts. The 

56 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

earth is all-important to the men 
in the observation, artillery-regulating, 
and bombardment machines, but the 
fighting aviator has an entirely dif- 
ferent sphere. His domain is the 
blue heavens, the glistening rolls of 
clouds below the fleecy banks tower- 
ing above, the vague aerial horizon, 
and he must watch it as carefully 
as a navigator watches the storm- 
tossed sea. 

On days when the clouds form 
almost a solid flooring, one feels very 
much at sea, and wonders if one is in 
the navy instead of aviation. The 
diminutive Nieuports skirt the white 
expanse like torpedo boats in an 
arctic sea, and sometimes, far across 
the cloud-waves, one sights an enemy 
escadrille, moving as a fleet. 

Principally our work consists of 

£7 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

keeping German airmen away from 
our lines, and in attacking them when 
opportunity offers. We traverse the 
brown band and enter enemy territory 
to the accompaniment of an anti- 
aircraft cannonade . Most of the shots 
are wild, however, and we pay little 
attention to them. When the shrap- 
nel comes uncomfortably close, one 
shifts position slightly to evade the 
range. One glances up to see if there 
is another machine higher than one's 
own. Low and far within the Ger- 
man lines are several enemy planes, 
a dull white in appearance, resembling 
sand flies against the mottled earth. 
High above them one glimpses the 
mosquito-like forms of two Fokkers. 
Away off to one side white shrapnel 
puffs are vaguely visible, perhaps 
directed against a German crossing 
58 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the lines. We approach the enemy 
machines ahead, only to find them 
slanting at a rapid rate into their own 
country. High above them lurks a 
protection plane. The man doing 
the "ceiling work," as it is called, will 
look after him for us. 

TACTICS OF AN AIR BATTLE 

Getting started is the -hardest part 
of an attack. Once you have begun 
diving you're all right. The pilot 
just ahead turns tail up like a trout 
dropping back to water, and swoops 
down in irregular curves and circles. 
You follow at an angle so steep your 
feet seem to be holding you back in 
your seat. Now the black Maltese 
crosses on the German's wings stand 
out clearly. You think of him as 
some sort of big bug. Then you hear 
59 



FLYING FO.R FRANCE 

the rapid tut-tut-tut of his machine 
gun. The man that dived ahead of 
you becomes mixed up with the top- 
most German. He is so close it looks 
as if he had hit the enemy machine. 
You hear the staccato barking of his 
mitrailleuse and see him pass from 
under the German's tail. 

The rattle of the gun that is aimed 
at you leaves you undisturbed. Only 
when the bullets pierce the wings a few 
feet off do you become uncomfortable. 
You see the gunner crouched down 
behind his weapon, but you aim at 
Where the pilot ought to be — there are 
two men aboard the German craft — 
and press on the release hard. Your 
mitrailleuse hammers out a stream of 
bullets as you pass over and dive, 
nose down, to get out of range. Then, 
hopefully, you re-dress and look back 
60 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

at the foe. He ought to be dropping 
earthward at several miles a minute. 
As a matter of fact, however, he is 
sailing serenely on. They have an 
annoying habit of doing that, these 
Boches. 

Rockwell, who attacked so often 
that he has lost all count, and whc 
shoves his machine gun fairly in the 
faces of the Germans, used to swear 
their planes were armoured. Lieu- 
tenant de Laage, whose list of com- 
bats is equally extensive, has brought 
down only one. Hall, with three 
machines to his credit, has had more 
luck. Lufbery, who evidently has 
evolved a secret formula, has dropped 
four, according to official statistics, 
since his arrival on the Verdun front. 
Four "palms" — the record for the 
escadrille, glitter upon the ribbon of 
61 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the Croix de Guerre accompanying 
his Medaile Militaire. 1 

A pilot seldom has the satisfaction 
of beholding the result of his bull's-eye 
bullet. Rarely — so difficult it is to 
follow the turnings and twistings of 
the dropping plane — does he see his 
fallen foe strike the ground. Luf- 
bery's last direct hit was an exception, 
for he followed all that took place from 
a balcony seat. I myself was in the 
"nigger-heaven," so I know. We 
had set out on a sortie together just 
before noon, one August day, and for 
the first time on such an occasion had 
lost each other over the lines. Seeing 
no Germans, I passed my time hover- 
ing over the French observation ma- 
chines. Lufbery found one, however, 

x This book was written in the fall of 1915. Since that 
time many additional machines have been credited to the 
American flyers. 

62 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

» 

and promptly brought it down. Just 
then I chanced to make a southward 
turn, and caught sight of an airplane 
falling out of the sky into the German 
lines. 

As it turned over, it showed its 
white belly for an instant, then seemed 
to straighten out, and planed down- 
ward in big zigzags. The pilot must 
have gripped his controls even in 
death, for his craft did not tumble as 
most do. It passed between my line 
of vision and a wood, into which it dis- 
appeared. Just as I was going down to 
find out where it landed, I saw it 
again skimming across a field, and 
heading straight for the brown band 
beneath me. It was outlined against 
the shell-racked earth like a tiny in- 
sect, until just northwest of Fort 
Douaumont it crashed down upon the 
63 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

battlefield. A sheet of flame and 
smoke shot up from the tangled 
wreckage. For a moment or two I 
watched it burn; then I went back to 
the observation machines. 

I thought Lufbery would show up 
and point to where the German had 
fallen. He failed to appear, and I be- 
gan to be afraid it was he whom I had 
seen come down, instead of an enemy. 
I spent a worried hour before my re- 
turn homeward. After getting back 
I learned that Lufbery was quite safe, 
having hurried in after the fight to re- 
port the destruction of his adversary 
before somebody else claimed him, 
which is only too frequently the case. 
Observation posts, however, con- 
firmed Lufbery' s story, and he was of 
course very much delighted. Never- 
theless, at luncheon, I heard him 
64 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

murmuring, half to himself: "Those 
poor fellows." 

The German machine gun operator, 
having probably escaped death in the 
air, must have had a hideous descent. 
Lufbery told us he had seen the whole 
thing, spiralling down after the Ger- 
man. He said he thought the Ger- 
man pilot must be a novice, judging 
from his manoeuvres. It occurred to 
me that he might have been making 
his first flight over the lines, doubtless 
full of enthusiasm about his career. 
Perhaps, dreaming of the Iron Cross 
and his Gretchen, he took a chance — 
and then swift death and a grave in 
the shell-strewn soil of Douaumont. 

Generally the escadrille is relieved 
by another fighting unit after two 
hours over the lines. We turn home- 
ward, and soon the hangars of our 
65 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

field loom up in the distance. Some- 
times I've been mighty glad to see 
them and not infrequently I've con- 
cluded the pleasantest part of flying 
is just after a good landing. Getting 
home after a sortie, we usually go into 
the rest tent, and talk over the morn- 
ing's work. Then some of us lie down 
for a nap, while others play cards or 
read. After luncheon we go to the 
field again, and the man on guard gets 
his chance to eat. If the morning 
sortie has been an early one, we go up 
again about one o'clock in the after- 
noon. We are home again in two 
hours and after that two or three 
energetic pilots may make a third trip 
over the lines. The rest wait around 
ready to take the air if an enemy 
bombardment group ventures to visit 
our territory — as it has done more 
66 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

than once over Bar-le-Duc. False 
alarms are plentiful, and we spend 
many hours aloft squinting at an 
empty sky. 

prince's aerial fireworks 

Now and then one of us will get 
ambitious to do something on his own 
account. Not long ago Norman 
Prince became obsessed with the idea 
of bringing down a German "saus- 
age," as observation balloons are 
called. He had a special device 
mounted on his Nieuport for setting 
fire to the aerial frankfurters. Thus 
equipped he resembled an advance 
agent for Payne's fireworks more than 
an aviateur de chasse. Having care- 
fully mapped the enemy "sausages," 
he would sally forth in hot pursuit 
whenever one was signalled at a re- 
67 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

spectable height. Poor Norman had 
a terrible time of it! Sometimes the 
reported "sausages" were not there 
when he arrived, and sometimes there 
was a super-abundancy of German 
airplanes on guard. 

He stuck to it, however, and finally 
his appetite for "sausage" was satis- 
fied. He found one just where it 
ought to be, swooped down upon it, 
and let off his fireworks with all the 
gusto of an American boy on the 
Fourth of July. When he looked 
again, the balloon had vanished. 
Prince's performance isn't so easy as 
it sounds, by the way. If, after the 
long dive necessary to turn the trick 
successfully, his motor had failed to 
retake, he would have fallen into the 
hands of the Germans. 

After dark, when flying is over for 
68 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the day, we go down to the villa for 
dinner. Usually we have two or 
three French officers dining with us 
besides our own captain and lieu- 
tenant, and so the table talk is a 
mixture of French and English. It's 
seldom we discuss the war in general. 
Mostly the conversation revolves 
about our own sphere, for just as in 
the navy the sea is the favourite 
topic, and in the army the trenches, so 
with us it is aviation. Our knowledge 
about the military operations is scant. 
We haven't the remotest idea as to 
what has taken place on the battle- 
field — even though we've been flying 
over it during an attack — until we 
read the papers ; and they don't tell us 
much. 

Frequently pilots from other esca- 
drilles will be our guests in passing 
69 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

through our sector, and through these 
visitations we keep in touch with the 
aerial news of the day, and with our 
friends along the front. Gradually 
we have come to know a great number 
of pilotes de chasse. We hear that 
so-&-so has been killed, that some one 
else has brought down a Boche and 
that still another is a prisoner. 

We don't always talk aviation, 
however. In the course of dinner 
almost any subject may be touched 
upon, and with our cosmopolitan 
crowd one can readily imagine the 
scope of the conversation. A Burton 
Holmes lecture is weak and watery 
compared to the travel stories we 
listen to. Were 0. Henry alive, he 
could find material for a hundred new 
yarns, and William James numerous 
pointers for another work on psy- 
70 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

chology, while De Quincey might 
multiply his dreams ad infinitum. 
Doubtless alienists as well as fiction 
writers would find us worth studying. 
In France there's a saying that 
to be an aviator one must be a bit 
"off." 

After dinner the same scene in- 
variably repeats itself, over the coffee 
in the "next room." At the big table 
several sportive souls start a poker 
game, while at a smaller one two se- 
date spirits wrap themselves in the 
intricacies of chess. Captain The- 
nault labours away at the messroom 
piano, or in lighter mood plays with 
Fram, his police dog. A phonograph 
grinds out the ancient query "Who 
Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van 
Winkle?" or some other ragtime ditty. 
It is barely nine, however, when the 
71 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

movement in the direction of bed 
begins. 

A few of us remain behind a little 
while, and the talk becomes more 
personal and more sincere. Only on 
such intimate occasions, I think, have 
I ever heard death discussed. Cer- 
tainly we are not indifferent to it. 
Not many nights ago one of the pilots 
remarked in a tired way : 

"Know what I want? Just six 
months of freedom to go where and 
do what I like. In that time I'd get 
everything I wanted out of life, and 
be perfectly willing to come back and 
be killed." 

Then another, who was about to 
receive 2,000 francs from the Ameri- 
can committee that aids us, as a 
reward for his many citations, chimed 
in. 

72 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

"Well, I didn't care much before," 
he confessed, "but now with this 
money coming in I don't want to die 
until I've had the fun of spending it." 

So saying, he yawned and went up 
to bed. 



73 



CHAPTER II 

VERDUN TO THE SOMME 

On the 12th of October, twenty 
small airplanes flying in a V formation, 
at such a height they resembled a 
flock of geese, crossed the river Rhine, 
where it skirts the plains of Alsace, 
and, turning north, headed for the 
famous Mauser works at Oberndorf. 
Following in their wake was an equal 
number of larger machines, and above 
these darted and circled swift fighting 
planes. The first group of aircraft 
was flown by British pilots, the second 
by French and three of the fighting 
planes by Americans in the French 
Aviation Division. It was a cos- 
74 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

mopolitan collection that effected that 
successful raid. 

We American pilots, who are 
grouped into one escadrille, had been 
fighting above the battlefield of Ver- 
dun from the 20th of May until orders 
came the middle of September for us 
to leave our airplanes, for a unit that 
would replace us, and to report at Le 
Bourget, the great Paris aviation 
centre. 

The mechanics and the rest of the 
personnel left, as usual, in the esca- 
drille's trucks with the material. For 
once the pilots did not take the aerial 
route but they boarded the Paris ex- 
press at Bar-le-Duc with all the en- 
thusiasm of schoolboys off for a va- 
cation. They were to have a week in 
the capital! Where they were to go 
after that they did not know, but pre- 
75 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

sumed it would be the Somme. As a 
matter of fact the escadrille was to be 
sent to Luxeuil in the Vosges to take 
part in the Mauser raid. 

Besides Captain Thenault and Lieu- 
tenant de Laage de Mieux, our French 
officers, the following American pilots 
were in the escadrille at this time: 
Lieutenant Thaw, who had returned 
to the front, even though his wounded 
arm had not entirely healed; Adju- 
tants Norman Prince, Hall, Lufbery, 
and Masson; and Sergeants Kiflin. 
Rockwell, Hill, Pavelka, Johnson, and 
Rumsey. I had been sent to a hos- 
pital at the end of August, because of 
a lame back resulting from a smash up 
in landing, and couldn't follow the 
escadrille until later. 

Every aviation unit boasts several 
mascots. Dogs of every description 
76 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

are to be seen around the camps, but 
the Americans managed, during their 
stay in Paris, to add to their men- 
agerie by the acquisition of a lion cub 
named "Whiskey." The little chap 
had been born on a boat crossing from 
Africa and was advertised for sale in 
France. Some of the American pilots 
chipped in and bought him. He was 
a cute, bright-eyed baby lion who 
tried to roar in a most threatening 
manner but who was blissfully con- 
tent the moment one gave him one's 
finger to suck. "Whiskey" got a 
good view of Paris during the few days 
he was there, for some one in the 
crowd was always borrowing him to 
take him some place. He, like most 
lions in captivity, became acquainted 
with bars, but the sort "Whiskey" saw 
were not for purposes of confinement. 
77 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

The orders came directing the es- 
cadrille to Luxeuil and bidding fare- 
well to gay "Paree" the men boarded 
the Belfort train with bag and bag- 
gage — and the lion. Lions, it de- 
veloped, were not allowed in passenger 
coaches. The conductor was assured 
that "Whiskey" was quite harmless 
and was going to overlook the rules 
when the cub began to roar and tried 
to get at the railwayman's finger. 
That settled it, so two of the men had 
to stay behind in order to crate up 
"Whiskey" and take him along the 
next day. 

The escadrille was joined in Paris by 
Robert Rockwell, of Cincinnati, who 
had finished his training as a pilot, and 
was waiting at the Reserve (Robert 
Rockwell had gone to France to work 
as a surgeon in one of the American 
78 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

war hospitals. He disliked remaining 
in the rear and eventually enlisted in 
aviation). 

The period of training for a pilot, 
especially for one who is to fly a fight- 
ing machine at the front, has been 
very much prolonged. It is no longer 
sufficient that he learns to fly and to 
master various types of machines. He 
now completes his training in schools 
where aerial shooting is taught, and in 
others where he practises combat, 
group manoeuvres, and acrobatic 
stunts such as looping the loop and 
the more difficult tricks. In all 
it requires from seven to nine 
months. 

Dennis Dowd, of Brooklyn, N. Y., 

is so far the only American volunteer 

aviator killed while in training. 

Dowd, who had joined the Foreign 

79 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Legion, shortly after the war broke 
out, was painfully wounded during 
the offensive in Champagne. After 
his recovery he was transferred, at his 
request, into aviation. At the Buc 
school he stood at the head of the 
fifteen Americans who were learning 
to be aviators, and was considered one 
of the most promising pilots in the 
training camp. On August 11, 1916, 
while making a flight preliminary to 
his brevet, Dowd fell from a height of 
only 260 feet and was instantly killed. 
Either he had fainted or a control 
had broken. 

While a patient at the hospital 
Dowd had been sent packages by a 
young French girl of Neuilly. A cor- 
respondence ensued, and when Dowd 
went to Paris on convalescent leave 
he and the young lady became en- 
80 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

gaged. He was killed just before the 
time set for the wedding. 

When the escadrille arrived at 
Luxeuil it found a great surprise in the 
form of a large British aviation con- 
tingent. This detachment from the 
Royal Navy Flying Corps numbered 
more than fifty pilots and a thousand 
men. New hangars harboured their 
fleet of bombardment machines. 
Their own anti-aircraft batteries were 
in emplacements near the field. 
Though detached from the British 
forces and under French command 
this unit followed the rule of His 
Majesty's armies in France by re- 
ceiving all of its food and supplies 
from England. It had its own trans- 
port service. 

Our escadrille had been in Luxeuil 
during the months of April and May. 
81 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

We had made many friends amongst 
the townspeople and the French pilots 
stationed there, so the older members 
of the American unit were welcomed 
with open arms and their new com- 
rades made to feel at home in the 
quaint Vosges town. It wasn't long, 
however, before the Americans and 
the British got together. At first 
there was a feeling of reserve on both 
sides but once acquainted they be- 
came fast friends. The naval pilots 
were quite representative of the 
United Kingdom hailing as they did 
from England, Canada, New South 
Wales, South Africa, and other parts 
of the Empire. Most of them were 
soldiers by profession. All were 
officers, but they were as democratic 
as it is possible to be. As a result 
there was a continuous exchange of 
82 




"WHISKEY" 

The lion and mascot of the American flying squadron in 
France 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

dinners. In a few days every one in 
this Anglo-American alliance was cal- 
ling each other by some nickname and 
swearing lifelong friendship. 

"We didn't know what you Yanks 
would be like," remarked one of the 
Englishmen one day. "Thought you 
might be snobby on account of being 
volunteers, but I swear you're a 
bloody human lot." That, I will ex- 
plain, is a very fine compliment. 

There was trouble getting new air- 
planes for every one in the escadrille. 
Only five arrived. They were the 
new model Nieuport fighting machine. 
Instead of having only 140 square feet 
of supporting surface, they had 160, 
and the forty-seven shot Lewis 
machine gun had been replaced by the 
Vickers, which fires five hundred 
rounds. This gun is mounted on the 
83 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

hood and by means of a timing gear 
shoots through the propeller. The 
160 foot Nieuport mounts at a ter- 
rific rate, rising to 7,000 feet in six 
minutes. It will go to 20,000 feet 
handled by a skillful pilot. 

It was some time before these air- 
planes arrived and every one was idle. 
There was nothing to do but loaf 
around the hotel, where the American 
pilots were quartered, visit the British 
in their barracks at the field, or go 
walking. It was about as much like 
war as a Bryan lecture. While I was 
in the hospital I received a letter 
written at this time from one of the 
boys. I opened it expecting to read 
of an air combat. It informed me 
that Thaw had caught a trout three 
feet long, and that Lufbery had 
picked two baskets of mushrooms. 
84 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Day after day the British planes 
practised formation flying. The reg- 
ularity with which the squadron's 
machines would leave the ground was 
remarkable. The twenty Sopwiths 
took the air at precise intervals, flew 
together in a V formation while ex- 
ecuting difficult manoeuvres, and 
landed one after the other with the 
exactness of clockwork. The French 
pilots flew the Farman and Breguet 
bombardment machines whenever the 
weather permitted. Every one knew 
some big bombardment was ahead but 
when it would be made or what place 
was to be attacked was a secret. 

Considering the number of ma- 
chines that were continually roaring 
above the field at Luxeuil it is re- 
markable that only two fatal accidents 
occurred. One was when a British 
85 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

pilot tried diving at a target, for 
machine-gun practice, and was unable 
to redress his airplane. Both he and 
his gunner were killed. In the second 
accident I lost a good friend — a young 
Frenchman. He took up his gunner 
in a two-seated Nieuport. A young 
Canadian pilot accompanied by a 
French officer followed in a Sopwith. 
When at about a thousand feet they 
began to manoeuvre about one an- 
other. In making a turn too close the 
tips of their wings touched. The 
Nieuport turned downward, its wings 
folded, and it fell like a stone. The 
Sopwith fluttered a second or two, 
then its wings buckled and it dropped 
in the wake of the Nieuport. The two 
men in each of the planes were killed 
outright. 
Next to falling in flames a drop in a 
86 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

wrecked machine is the worst death 
an aviator can meet. I know of no 
sound more horrible than that made 
by an airplane crashing to earth. 
Breathless one has watched the un- 
controlled apparatus tumble through 
the air. The agony felt by the pilot 
and passenger seems to transmit itself 
to you. You are helpless to avert the 
certain death. You cannot even turn 
your eyes away at the moment of im- 
pact. In the dull, grinding crash 
there is the sound of breaking bones. 
Luxeuil was an excellent place to 
observe the difference that exists be- 
tween the French, English, and Amer- 
ican aviatior, but when all is said and 
done there is but little difference. 
The Frenchman is the most natural 
pilot and the most adroit. Flying 
comes easier to him than to an 
87 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Englishman or American, but once 
accustomed to an airplane and the air 
they all accomplish the same amount 
of work. A Frenchman goes about it 
with a little more dash than the 
others, and puts on a few extra frills, 
but the Englishman calmly carries out 
his mission and obtains the same re- 
sults. An American is a combination 
of the two, but neither better nor 
worse. Though there is a large num- 
ber of expert German airmen I do not 
believe the average Teuton makes as 
good a flier as a Frenchman, English- 
man, or American. 

In spite of their bombardment of 
open towns and the use of explosive 
bullets in their aerial machine guns, 
the Boches have shown up in a better 
light in aviation than in any other 
arm. A few of the Hun pilots have 
88 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

evinced certain elements of honor and 
decency. I remember one chap that 
was the right sort. 

He was a young man but a pilot of 
long standing. An old infantry cap- 
tain stationed near his aviation field 
at Etain, east of Verdun, prevailed 
upon this German pilot to take him on 
a flight. There was a new machine to 
test out and he told the captain to 
climb aboard. Foolishly he crossed 
the trench lines and, actuated by a de- 
sire to give his passenger an interest- 
ing trip, proceeded to fly over the 
French aviation headquarters. Un- 
fortunately for him he encountered 
three French fighting planes which 
promptly opened fire. The German 
pilot was wounded in the leg and the gas- 
oline tank of his airplane was pierced. 
Under him was an aviation field. He 
89 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

decided to land. The machine was 
captured before the Germans had 
time to burn it up. Explosive bullets 
were discovered in the machine gun. 
A French officer turned to the German 
captain and informed him that he 
would probably be shot for using ex- 
plosive bullets. The captain did not 
understand. 

"Don't shoot him," said the pilot, 
using excellent French, "if you're 
going to shoot any one take me. The 
captain has nothing to do with the 
bullets. He doesn't even know how 
to work a machine gun. It's his first 
trip in an airplane." 

"Well, if you'll give us some good 
information, we won't shoot you," 
said the French officer. 

"Information," replied the Ger- 
man, "I can't give you any. I come 
90 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

from Etain, and you know where that 
is as well as I do." 

"No, you must give us some worth- 
while information, or I'm afraid 
you'll be shot," insisted the French- 
man. 

" If I give you worth-while informa- 
tion," answered the pilot, "you'll go 
over and kill a lot of soldiers, and if I 
don't you'll only kill one — so go 
ahead." 

The last time I heard of the Boche 
he was being well taken care of. 

Kiffin Rockwell and Lufbery were 
the first to get their new machines 
ready and on the 23rd of September 
went out for the first flight since the 
escadrille had arrived at Luxeuil. 
They became separated in the air but 
each flew on alone, which was a 
dangerous thing to do in the Alsace 
91 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

sector. There is but little fighting in 
the trenches there, but great air 
activity. Due to the British and 
French squadrons at Luxeuil, and the 
threat their presence implied, the Ger- 
mans had to oppose them by a large 
fleet of fighting machines. I believe 
there were more than forty Fokkers 
alone in the camps of Colmar and 
Habsheim. Observation machines 
protected by two or three fighting 
planes would venture far into our 
lines. It is something the Germans 
dare not do on any other part of the 
front. They had a special trick that 
consisted in sending a large, slow ob- 
servation machine into our lines to in- 
vite attack. When a French plane 
would dive after it, two Fokkers, that 
had been hovering high overhead, 
would drop on the tail of the French- 
92 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

man and he stood but small chance if 
caught in the trap. 

Just before Kiffin Rockwell reached 
the lines he spied a German machine 
under him flying at 11,000 feet. I 
can imagine the satisfaction he felt in 
at last catching an enemy plane in our 
lines. Rockwell had fought more 
combats than the rest of us put to- 
gether, and had shot down many Ger- 
man machines that had fallen in their 
lines, but this was the first time he had 
had an opportunity of bringing down 
a Boche in our territory. 

A captain, the commandant of an 
Alsatian village, watched the aerial 
battle through his field glasses. He 
said that Rockwell approached so 
close to the enemy that he thought 
there would be a collision. The Ger- 
man craft, which carried two machine 
93 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

guns, had opened a rapid fire when 
Rockwell started his dive. He 
plunged through the stream of lead 
and only when very close to his 
enemy did he begin shooting. For a 
second it looked as though the Ger- 
man was falling, so the captain said, 
but then he saw the French machine 
turn rapidly nose down, the wings of 
one side broke off and fluttered in the 
wake of the airplane, which hurtled 
earthward in a rapid drop. It crashed 
into the ground in a small field — a field 
of flowers — a few hundred yards back 
of the trenches. It was not more than 
two and a half miles from the spot 
where Rockwell, in the month of May, 
brought down his first enemy ma- 
chine. The Germans immediately 
opened up on the wreck with artillery 
fire. In spite of the bursting shrap- 
94 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

nel, gunners from a near-by battery 
rushed out and recovered poor Rock- 
well's broken body. There was a 
hideous wound in his breast where an 
explosive bullet had torn through. A 
surgeon who examined the body, 
testified that if it had been an ordi- 
nary bullet Rockwell would have had 
an even chance of landing with only a 
bad wound. As it was he was killed 
the instant the unlawful missile ex- 
ploded. 

Lufbery engaged a German craft 
but before he could get to close range 
two Fokkers swooped down from be- 
hind and filled his aeroplane full of 
holes. Exhausting his ammunition 
he landed at Fontaine, an aviation 
field near the lines. There he learned 
of Rockwell's death and was told that 
two other French machines had been 
95 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

brought down within the hour. He 
ordered his gasoline tank filled, pro- 
cured a full band of cartridges and 
soared up into the air to avenge his 
comrade. He sped up and down the 
lines, and made a wide detour to 
Habsheim where the Germans have an 
aviation field, but all to no avail. Not 
a Boche was in the air. 

The news of Rockwell's death was 
telephoned to the escadrille. The 
captain, lieutenant, and a couple of 
men jumped in a staff car and 
hastened to where he had fallen. On 
their return the American pilots were 
convened in a room of the hotel and 
the news was broken to them. With 
tears in his eyes the captain said: 
"The best and bravest of us all is no 
more." 

No greater blow could have befallen 
96 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the escadrille. KifFin was its soul. 
He was loved and looked up to by not 
only every man in our flying corps but 
by every one who knew him. Kiffin 
was imbued with the spirit of the 
cause for which he fought and gave his 
heart and soul to the performance of 
his duty. He said: "I pay my part 
for Lafayette and Rochambeau," and 
he gave the fullest measure. The old 
flame of chivalry burned brightly in 
this boy's fine and sensitive being. 
With his death France lost one of her 
most valuable pilots. When he was 
over the lines the Germans did not 
pass — and he was over them most of 
the time. . He brought down four 
enemy planes that were credited to 
him officially, and Lieutenant de 
Laage, who was his fighting partner, 
says he is convinced that Rockwell 
97 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

accounted for many others which fell 
too far within the German lines to be 
observed. Rockwell had been given 
the Medaille Militaire and the Croix 
de Guerre, on the ribbon of which he 
wore four palms, representing the four 
magnificent citations he had received 
in the order of the army. As a fur- 
ther reward for his excellent work he 
had been proposed for promotion from 
the grade of sergeant to that of second 
lieutenant. Unfortunately the official 
order did not arrive until a few days 
following his death. 

The night before Rockwell was 
killed he had stated that if he were 
brought down he would like to be 
buried where he fell. It was im- 
possible, however, to place him in a 
grave so near the trenches. His body 
was draped in a French flag and 
98 




KIFFIN ROCKWELL, OF ASHEVILLE, N. C. 
Who was killed in an air duel over Verdun 

" Kiffin was imbued with the spirit of the cause for which 
he fought. He said: 'I pay my part for Lafayette and 
Rochambeau ' " (See page 97) 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

brought back to Luxeuil. He was 
given a funeral worthy of a general. 
His brother, Paul, who had fought in 
the Legion with him, and who had 
been rendered unfit for service by a 
wound, was granted permission to 
attend the obsequies. Pilots from all 
near-by camps flew over to render 
homage to Rockwell's remains. 
Every Frenchman in the aviation at 
Luxeuil marched behind the bier. 
The British pilots, followed by a de- 
tachment of five hundred of their men, 
were in line, and a battalion of French 
troops brought up the rear. As the 
slow moving procession of blue and 
khaki-clad men passed from the 
church to the graveyard, airplanes 
circled at a feeble height above and 
showered down myriads of flowers. 
Rockwell's death urged the rest of 
99 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the men to greater action, and the few 
who had machines were constantly 
after the Boches. Prince brought 
one down. Lufbery, the most skillful 
and successful fighter in the escadrille, 
would venture far into the enemy's 
lines and spiral down over a German 
aviation camp, daring the pilots to 
venture forth. One day he stirred 
them up, but as he was short of fuel 
he had to make for home before they 
took to the air. Prince was out in 
search of a combat at this time. He 
got it. He ran into the crowd Luf- 
bery had aroused. Bullets cut into 
his machine and one exploding on the 
front edge of a lower wing broke it. 
Another shattered a supporting mast. 
It was a miracle that the machine did 
not give way. As badly battered as 
it was Prince succeeded in bringing it 
100 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

back from over Mulhouse, where the 
fight occurred, to his field at Luxeuil. 
The same day that Prince was so 
nearly brought down Lufbery missed 
death by a very small margin. He 
had taken on more gasoline and made 
another sortie. When over the lines 
again he encountered a German with 
whom he had a fighting acquaintance. 
That is he and the Boche, who was an 
excellent pilot, had tried to kill each 
other on one or two occasions before. 
Each was too good for the other. Luf- 
bery manoeuvred for position but, be- 
fore he could shoot, the Teuton would 
evade him by a clever turn. They 
kept after one another, the Boche re- 
treating into his lines. When they 
were nearing Habsheim, Lufbery 
glanced back and saw French shrapnel 
bursting over the trenches. It meant 
101 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

a German plane was over French 
territory and it was his duty to drive 
it off. Swooping down near his ad- 
versary he waved good-bye, the enemy 
pilot did likewise, and Lufbery 
whirred off to chase the other repre- 
sentative of Kultur. He caught up 
with him and dove to the attack, but 
he was surprised by a German he had 
not seen. Before he could escape 
three bullets entered his motor, two 
passed through the fur-lined combina- 
tion he wore, another ripped open one 
of his woolen flying boots, his air- 
plane was riddled from wing tip to 
wing tip, and other bullets cut the 
elevating plane. Had he not been an 
exceptional aviator he never would 
have brought safely to earth so badly 
damaged a machine. It was so 
thoroughly shot up that it was junked 
102 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

as being beyond repairs. Fortunately 
Lufbery was over French territory or 
his forced descent would have resulted 
in his being made prisoner. 

I know of only one other airplane 
that was safely landed after receiving 
as heavy punishment as did Lufbery's. 
It was a two-place Nieuport piloted 
by a young Frenchman named Fon- 
taine with whom I trained. He and 
his gunner attacked a German over 
the Bois le Pretre who dove rapidly 
far into his lines. Fontaine followed 
and in turn was attacked by three 
other Boches. He dropped to escape, 
they plunged after him forcing him 
lower. He looked and saw a German 
aviation field under him. He was by 
this time only 2,000 feet above the 
ground. Fontaine saw the mechanics 
rush out to grasp him, thinking he 
103 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

would land. The attacking airplanes 
had stopped shooting. Fontaine 
pulled on full power and headed for 
the lines. The German planes 
dropped down on him and again 
opened fire. They were on his level, 
behind and on his sides. Bullets 
whistled by him in streams. The 
rapid-fire gun on Fontaine's machine 
had jammed and he was helpless. His 
gunner fell forward on him, dead. 
The trenches were just ahead, but as 
he was slanting downward to gain 
speed he had lost a good deal of 
height, 3 and was at only six hundred feet 
when he crossed the lines, from which 
he received a ground fire. The Ger- 
mans gave up the chase and Fontaine 
landed with his dead gunner. His 
wings were so full of holes that they 
barely supported the machine in the air. 
104 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

The uncertain wait at Luxeuil 
finally came to an end on the 12th of 
October. The afternoon of that day 
the British did not say: "Come on 
Yanks, let's call off the war and have 
tea," as was their wont, for the bom- 
bardment of Oberndorf was on. The 
British and French machines had been 
prepared. Just before climbing into 
their airplanes the pilots were given 
their orders. The English in their 
single-seated Sopwiths, which carried 
four bombs each, were the first to 
leave. The big French Brequets and 
Farmans then soared aloft with their 
tons of explosive destined for the 
Mauser works. The fighting ma- 
chines, which were to convoy them as 
far as the Rhine, rapidly gained their 
height and circled above their charges. 
Four of the battleplanes were from 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the American eseadrille. They were 
piloted respectively by Lieutenant de 
Laage, Lufbery, Norman Prince, and 
Masson. 

The Germans were taken by sur- 
prise and as a result few of their ma- 
chines were in the air. The bombard- 
ment fleet was attacked, however, and 
six of its planes shot down, some of 
them falling in flames. Baron, the 
famous French night bombarder, lost 
hislifeinoneoftheFarmans. Two Ger- 
mans were brought down by machines 
they attacked and the four pilots from 
the American eseadrille accounted for 
one each. Lieutenant de Laage shot 
down his Boche as it was attacking an- 
other French machine and Masson did 
likewise. Explaining it afterward he 
said: "All of a sudden I saw a Boche 
•some in between me and a Breguet, 
106 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

I was following. I just began to 
shoot, and darned if he didn't 
fall." 

As the fuel capacity of a Nieuport 
allows but little more than two hours 
in the air the avions de chasse were 
forced to return to their own lines to 
take on more gasoline, while the bom- 
bardment planes continued on into 
Germany. The Sopwiths arrived 
first at Oberndorf. Dropping low 
over the Mauser works they dis- 
charged their bombs and headed 
homeward. All arrived, save one, 
whose pilot lost his way and came to 
earth in Switzerland. When the big 
machines got to Oberndorf they saw 
only flames and smoke where once the 
rifle factory stood. They unloaded 
their explosives on the burning mass. 

The Nieuports having refilled their 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

tanks went up to clear the air of Ger- 
mans that might be hovering in wait 
for the returning raiders. Prince 
found one and promptly shot it down. 
Lufbery came upon three. He drove 
for one, making it drop below the 
others, then forcing a second to de- 
scend, attacked the one remaining 
above. The combat was short and at 
the end of it the German tumbled to 
earth. This made the fifth enemy 
machine which was officially credited 
to Lufbery. When a pilot has ac- 
counted for five Boches he is men- 
tioned by name in the official com- 
munication, and is spoken of as an 
"Ace," which in French aerial slang 
means a super-pilot. Papers are al- 
lowed to call an "ace" by name, print 
his picture and give him a write-up. 
The successful aviator becomes a 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

national hero. When Lufbery worked 
into this category the French papers 
made him a head liner. The Ameri- 
can "Ace," with his string of medals, 
then came in for the ennuis of a mati- 
nee idol. The choicest bit in the col- 
lection was a letter from Wallingford, 
Conn., his home town, thanking him 
for putting it on the map. 

Darkness was coming rapidly on 
but Prince and Lufbery remained in 
the air to protect the bombardment 
fleet. Just at nightfall Lufbery made 
for a small aviation field near the lines, 
known as Corcieux. Slow-moving 
machines, with great planing cap- 
acity, can be landed in the dark, but 
to try and feel for the ground in a 
Nieuport, which comes down at about 
a hundred miles an hour, is to court 
disaster. Ten minutes after Lufbery 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

landed Prince decided to make for the 
field. He spiraled down through the 
night air and skimmed rapidly over 
the trees bordering the Gorcieux field. 
In the dark he did not see a high- 
tension electric cable that was 
stretched just above the tree tops. 
The landing gear of his airplane struck 
it. The machine snapped forward 
and hit the ground on its nose. It 
turned over and over. The belt hold- 
ing Prince broke and he was thrown 
far from the wrecked plane. Both of 
his legs were broken and he naturally 
suffered internal injuries. In spite 
of the terrific shock and his intense 
pain Prince did not lose consciousness. 
He even kept his presence of mind and 
gave orders to the men who had run to 
pick him up. Hearing the hum of a 
motor, and realizing a machine was in 
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FLYING FOR FR AN G E 

the air, Prince told them to light 
gasoline fires on the field. "You don't 
want another fellow to come down 
and break himself up the way I've 
done," he said. 

Lufbery went with Prince to the 
hospital in Gerardmer. As the am- 
bulance rolled along Prince sang to 
keep up his spirits. He spoke of get- 
ting well soon and returning to ser- 
vice. It was like Norman. He was 
always energetic about his flying. 
Even when he passed through the 
harrowing experience of having a 
wing shattered, the first thing he did 
on landing was to busy himself about 
getting another fitted in place and 
the next morning he was in the air 
again. 

No one thought that Prince was 
mortally injured but the next day he 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 



went into a coma. A blood clot had 
formed on his brain. Captain Haff in 
command of the aviation groups of 
Luxeuil, accompanied by our officers, 
hastened to Gerardmer. Prince lying 
unconscious on his bed, was named a 
second lieutenant and decorated with 
the Legion of Honor. He already 
held the Medaille Militaire and Croix 
de Guerre. Norman Prince died on 
the 15th of October. He was brought 
back to Luxeuil and given a funeral 
similar to Rockwell's. It was hard to 
realize that poor old Norman had 
gone. He was the founder of the 
American escadrille and every one in 
it had come to rely on him. He never 
let his own spirits drop, and was al- 
ways on hand with encouragement for 
the others. I do not think Prince 
minded going. He wanted to do his 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

part before being killed, and he had 
more than done it. He had, day after 
day, freed the line of Germans, mak- 
ing it impossible for them to do their 
work, and three of them he had shot 
to earth. 

Two days after Prince's death the 
escadrille received orders to leave for 
the Somme. The night before the de- 
parture the British gave the American 
pilots a farewell banquet and toasted 
them as their "Guardian Angels." 
They keenly appreciated the fact that 
four men from the American escadrille 
had brought down four Germans, and 
had cleared the way for their squad- 
ron returning from Oberndorf . When 
the train pulled out the next day the 
station platform was packed by khaki- 
clad pilots waving good-bye to their 
friends the "Yanks." 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

The escadrille passed through Paris 
on its way to the Somme front. The 
few members who had machines flew 
from Luxeuil to their new post. At 
Paris the pilots were reenforced by 
three other American boys who had 
completed their training. They were : 
Fred Prince, who ten months before 
had come over from Boston to serve 
in aviation with his brother Norman ; 
Willis Haviland, of Chicago, who left 
the American Ambulance for the life 
of a birdman, and Bob Soubrian, of 
New York, who had been transferred 
from the Foreign Legion to the flying 
corps after being wounded in the 
Champagne offensive. 

Before its arrival in the Somme the 

escadrille had always been quartered 

in towns and the life of the pilots was 

all that could be desired in the way of 

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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

comforts. We had, as a result, come 
to believe that we would wage only a 
de luxe war, and were unprepared for 
any other sort of campaign. The in- 
troduction to the Somme was a rude 
awakening. Instead of being quar- 
tered in a villa or hotel, the pilots were 
directed to a portable barracks newly 
erected in a sea of mud. 

It was set in a cluster of similar 
barns nine miles from the near- 
est town. A sieve was a water- 
tight compartment in comparison 
with that elongated shed. The damp 
cold penetrated through every crack, 
chilling one to the bone. There were 
no blankets and until they were pro- 
cured the pilots had to curl up in their 
flying clothes. There were no arrange- 
ments for cooking and the Americans 
depended on the other escadrilles for 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

food. Eight fighting units were lo- 
cated at the same field and our ever- 
generous French comrades saw to it 
that no one went hungry. The thick 
mist, for which the Somme is famous, 
hung like a pall over the birdmen's 
nest dampening both the clothes and 
spirits of the men. 

Something had to be done, so Thaw 
and Masson, who is our Chef de Popote 
(President of the Mess) obtained per- 
mission to go to Paris in one of our 
light trucks. They returned with 
cooking utensils, a stove, and other 
necessary things. All hands set to 
work and as a result life was made 
bearable. In fact I was surprised to 
find the quarters as good as they were 
when I rejoined the escadrille a couple 
of weeks after its arrival in the 
Somme. Outside of the cold, mud, 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

and dampness it wasn't so bad. The 
barracks had been partitioned off into 
little rooms leaving a large space for a 
dining hall. The stove is set up there 
and all animate life from the lion cub 
to the pilots centre around its warm- 
ing glow. 

The eight escadrilles of fighting 
machines form a rather interesting 
colony. The large canvas hangars 
are surrounded by the house tents of 
their respective escadrilles; wooden 
barracks for the men and pilots are in 
close proximity, and sandwiched in 
between the encampments of the 
various units are the tents where the 
commanding officers hold forth. In 
addition there is a bath house where 
one may go and freeze while a tiny 
stream of hot water trickles down 
one's shivering form. Another shack 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

houses the power plant which gen- 
erates electric light for the tents and 
barracks, and in one very popular 
canvas is located the community bar, 
the profits from which go to the Red 
Cross. 

We had never before been grouped 
with as many other fighting esca- 
drilles, nor at a field so near the front. 
We sensed the war to better advan- 
tage than at Luxeuil or Bar-le-Duc. 
When there is activity on the lines the 
rumble of heavy artillery reaches us 
in a heavy volume of sound. From 
the field one can see the line of sau- 
sage-shaped observation balloons, 
which delineate the front, and beyond 
them the high-flying airplanes, dart- 
ing like swallows in the shrapnel puffs 
of anti-air-craft fire. The roar of 
motors that are being tested, is punc- 
118 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

tuated by the staccato barking of 
machine guns, and at intervals the 
hollow whistling sound of a fast plane 
diving to earth is added to this 
symphony of war notes. 



119 



CHAPTER III 

PERSONAL LETTERS FROM SERGEANT 
McGONNELL — AT THE FRONT 

We're still waiting for our machines. 
In the meantime the Boches sail gaily 
over and drop bombs. One of our 
drivers has been killed and five wound- 
ed so far but we'll put a stop to it soon. 
The machines have left and are due 
to-day. 

You ask me what my work will be 
and how my machine is armed. First 
of all I mount an avion de chasse and 
am supposed to shoot down Boches 
or keep them away from over our 
lines. I do not do observation, or 
regulating of artillery fire. These are 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

handled by escadrilles equipped with 
bigger machines. I mount at day- 
break over the lines; stay at from 
11,000 to 15,000 feet and wait for the 
sight of an enemy plane. It may be 
a bombardment machine, a regulator 
of fire, an observer, or an avion de 
chasse looking for me. Whatever she 
is I make for her and manoeuvre for 
position. All the machines carry dif- 
ferent gun positions and one seeks 
the blind side. Having obtained the 
proper position one turns down or up, 
whichever the case may be, and, when 
within fifty yards, opens up with the 
machine gun. That is on the upper 
plane and it is sighted by a series of 
holes and cross webs. As one is 
passing at a terrific rate there is not 
time for many shots, so, unless 
wounded or one's machine is injured 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

by the first try — for the enemy plane 
shoots, too — one tries it again and 
again until there's nothing doing or 
the other fellow is dropped. Apart 
from work over the lines, which is 
comparatively calm, there is the job 
of convoying bombardment machines. 
That is the rotten task. The captain 
has called on us to act as guards on 
the next trip. You see we are like 
torpedo boats of the air with our swift 
machines. 

We have the honour of being at- 
tached to a bombardment squadron 
that is the most famous in the French 
Army. The captain of the unit once 
lost his whole escadrille, and on the last 
trip eight lost their lives. It was a 
wonderful fight. The squadron was 
attacked by thirty-three Boches. Two 
French planes crashed to earth — then 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

two German ; another German was set 
on fire and streaked down, followed by 
a streaming column of smoke. An- 
other Frenchman fell; another Ger- 
man; and then a French lieutenant, 
mortally wounded and realizing that 
he was dying, plunged his airplane 
into a German below him and both 
fell to earth like stones. 

The tours of Alsace and the Vosges 
that we have made, to look over 
possible landing places, were wonder- 
ful. I've never seen such ravishing 
sights, and in regarding the beauty of 
the country I have missed noting the 
landing places. The valleys are mar- 
vellous. On each side the mountain 
slopes are a solid mass of giant pines 
and down these avenues of green 
tumble myriads of glittering cascades 
which form into sparkling streams 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

beneath. It is a pleasant feeling to 
go into Alsace and realize that one is 
touring over country we have taken 
from the Germans. It's a treat to go 
by auto that way. In the air, you 
know, one feels detached from all 
below. It's a different world, that 
has no particular meaning, and be- 
sides, it all looks flat and of a weary 
pattern. 

THE FIRST TRIP 

Well, I've made my first trip over 
the lines and proved a few things to 
myself. First, I can stand high alti- 
tudes. I had never been higher than 
7,000 feet before, nor had I flown 
more than an hour. On my trip 
to Germany I went to 14,000 feet and 
was in the air for two hours. I wore 
the fur head-to-foot combination they 
124 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

give one and paper gloves under the 
fur ones you sent me. I was not cold. 
In a way it seemed amusing to be 
going out knowing as little as I do. 
My mitrailleuse had been mounted 
the night before. I had never fired it, 
nor did I know the country at all even 
though I'd motored along our lines. 
I followed the others or I surely should 
have been lost. I shall have to make 
special trips to study the land and 
be able to make it out from my map 
which I carry on board. For one 
thing the weather was hazy and 
clouds obscured the view. 

We left en escadrille, at 30-second 
intervals, at 6:30 a.m. I'd been on 
guard since three, waiting for an 
enemy plane. I climbed to 3,500 
feet in four minutes and so started off 
higher than the rest. I lost them 
125 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

immediately but took a compass course 
in the direction we were headed. 
Clouds were below me and I could 
see the earth only in spots. Ahead 
was a great barrier of clouds and fog. 
It seemed like a limitless ocean. To 
the south the Alps jutted up through 
the clouds and glistened like icebergs 
in the morning sun. I began to feel 
completely lost. I was at 7,000 feet 
and that was all I knew. Suddenly 
I saw a little black speck pop out of a 
cloud to my left — then two others. 
They were our machines and from 
then on I never let them get out of 
my sight. I went to 14,000 in order 
to be able to keep them well in view 
below me. We went over Belfort 
which I recognized, and, turning, went 
toward the lines. The clouds had 
dispersed by this time. Alsace was 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

below us and in the distance I could 
see the straight course of the Rhine. 
It looked very small. I looked down 
and saw the trenches and when I next 
looked for our machines I saw clusters 
of smoke puffs. We were being fired 
at. One machine just under me 
seemed to be in the centre of a lot 
of shrapnel. The puffs were white, or 
black, or green, depending on the size 
of the shell used. It struck me as 
more amusing than anything else to 
watch the explosions and smoke. I 
thought of what a lot of money we 
were making the Germans spend. 
It is not often that they hit. The day 
before one of our machines had a part 
of the tail shot away and the pro- 
peller nicked, but that's just bum 
luck. Two shells went off just at 
my height and in a way that led me 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

to think that the third one would 
get me; but it didn't. It's hard even 
for the aviator to tell how far off they 
are. We went over Mulhouse and 
to the north. Then we sailed south 
and turned over the lines on the 
way home. I was very tired after 
the flight but it was because I was not 
used to it and it was a strain on me 
keeping a look-out for the others. 

AT VERDUN 

To-day the army moving picture 
outfit took pictures of us. We had 
a big show. Thirty bombardment 
planes went off like clock-work and 
we followed. We circled and swooped 
down by the camera. We were taken 
in groups, then individually, in flying 
togs, and God knows what-all. They 
will be shown in the States. 
128 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

If you happen to see them you will 
recognize my machine by the Mag, 
painted on the side. 

Seems quite an important thing to 
have one's own airplane with two 
mechanics to take care of it, to help 
one dress for flights, and to obey 
orders. A pilot of no matter what 
grade is like an officer in any other arm. 

We didn't see any Boche planes on 
our trip. We were too many. The 
only way to do is to sneak up on them. 

I do not get a chance to see much 
of the biggest battle in the world 
which is being fought here, for I'm 
on a fighting machine and the sky 
is my province. We fly so high that 
ground details are lacking. Where 
the battle has raged there is a broad, 
browned band. It is a great strip of 
murdered Nature. Trees, houses, and 
129 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

even roads have been blasted com- 
pletely away. The shell holes are so 
numerous that they blend into one 
another and cannot be separately seen. 
It looks as if shells fell by the thousand 
every second. There are spurts of 
smoke at nearly every foot of the 
brown areas and a thick pall of mist 
covers it all. There are but holes 
where the trenches ran, and when 
one thinks of the poor devils crouch- 
ing in their inadequate shelters under 
such a hurricane of flying metal, it 
increases one's respect for the staying 
powers of modern man. It's terrible 
to watch, and I feel sad every time I 
look down. The only shooting we 
hear is the tut-tut-tut of our own or 
enemy plane's machine guns when 
fighting is at close quarters. The 
Germans shoot explosive bullets from 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

theirs. I must admit that they have 
an excellent air fleet even if they do 
not fight decently. 

I'm a sergeant now — sergent in 
French — and I get about two francs 
more a day and wear a gold band on 
my cap, which makes old territorials 
think I'm an officer and occasions 
salutes which are some bother. 

A SORTIE 

We made a foolish sortie this morn 
ing. Only five of us went, the others 
remaining in bed thinking the weather 
was too bad. It was. When at 
only 3,000 feet we hit a solid layer 
of clouds, and when we had passed 
through, we couldn't see anything 
but a shimmering field of white. 
Above were the bright sun and the 
blue sky, but how we were in re- 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

gard to the earth no one knew. 
Fortunately the clouds had a big 
hole in them at one point and the 
whole mass was moving toward the 
lines. By circling, climbing, and 
dropping we stayed above the hole, 
and, when over the trenches, worked 
into it, ready to fall on the Boches. 
It's a stunt they use, too. We finally 
found ourselves 20 kilometres in the 
German lines. In coming back I 
steered by compass and then when I 
thought I was near the field I dived 
and found myself not so far off, hav- 
ing the field in view. In the clouds 
it shakes terribly and one feels as if 
one were in a canoe on a rough sea. 

VICTOR CHAPMAN 

I was mighty sorry to see old Victor 
Chapman go. He was one of the 
132 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

finest men I've ever known. He was 
too brave if anything. He was ex- 
ceptionally well educated, had a fine 
brain, and a heart as big as a house. 
Why, on the day of his fatal trip, he 
had put oranges in his machine to take 
to Balsley who was lying wounded 
with an explosive bullet. He was 
going to land near the hospital after 
the sortie. 

Received letter inclosing note from 
Chapman's father. I'm glad you 
wrote him. I feel sure that some of 
my letters never reach you. I never 
let more than a week go by without 
writing. Maybe I do not get all 
yours, either. 

A SMASH-UP 

Weather has been fine and we've 
been doing a lot of work. Our Lieu- 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

tenant de Laage de Mieux, brought 
down a Boche. I had another beau- 
tiful smash-up. Prince and I had 
stayed too long over the lines. Im- 
portant day as an attack was going 
on. It was getting dark and we 
could see the tiny balls of fire the 
infantry light to show the low-flying 
observation machines their new posi- 
tions. On my return, when I was over 
another aviation field, my motor 
broke. I made for field. In the dark- 
ness I couldn't judge my distance 
well, and went too far. At the edge of 
the field there were trees, and beyond, 
a deep cut where a road ran. I was 
skimming ground at a hundred miles 
an hour and heading for the trees. I 
saw soldiers running to be in at the fin- 
ish and I thought to myself that 
James's hash was cooked, but I went 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

between two trees and ended up head 
on against the opposite bank of the 
road. My motor took the shock and 
my belt held me. As my tail went up 
it was cut in two by some very low 
'phone wires. I wasn't even bruised. 
Took dinner with the officers there who 
gave me a car to go home in afterward. 

FIGHTING A BOGHE 

To-day I shared another chap's 
machine (Hill of Peekskill), and got 
it shot up for him. De Laage (our 
lieutenant) and I made a sortie at 
noon. When over the German lines, 
near Cote 304, I saw two Boches under 
me. I picked out the rear chap and 
dived. Fired a few shots and then 
tried to get under his tail and hit him 
from there. I missed, and bobbed 
up alongside of him. Fine for the 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

Boche, but rotten for me ! I could see 
his gunner working the mitrailleuse 
for fair, and felt his bullets darn close. 
I dived, for I could not shoot from 
that position, and beat it. He kept 
plunking away and altogether put 
seven holes in my machine. One was 
only ten inches in from me. De 
Laage was too far off to get to the 
Boche and ruin him while I was 
amusing him. 

Yesterday I motored up to an avia- 
tion camp to see a Boche machine 
that had been forced to land and was 
captured. On the way up I passed 
a cantonment of Senegalese. About 
twenty of 'em jumped up from the 
bench they were sitting on and gave 
me the hell of a salute. Thought I 
was a general because I was riding in 
a car, I guess. They're the blackest 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

niggers you ever saw. Good-looking 
soldiers. Can't stand shelling but 
they're good on the cold steel end of 
the game. The Boche machine was a 
beauty. Its motor is excellent and 
she carries a machine gun aft and one 
forward. Same kind of machine I 
attacked to-day. The German pilots 
must be mighty cold-footed, for if 
the Frenchmen had airplanes like 
that they surely would raise the devil 
with the Boches. 

As it is the Boches keep well within 
their lines, save occasionally, and we 
have to go over and fight them there. 

KIFFIN ROCKWELL 

Poor Kiffen Rockwell has been killed. 
He was known and admired far 
and wide, and he was accorded ex- 
traordinary honours. Fifty English 
137 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

pilots and eight hundred aviation men 
from the British unit in the Vosges 
marched at his funeral. There was a 
regiment of Territorials and a battalion 
of Colonial troops in addition to the 
hundreds of French pilots and aviation 
men. Captain Thenault of the Amer- 
ican Escadrille delivered an exception- 
ally eulogistic funeral oration. He 
spoke at length of Rockwell's ideals 
and his magnificent work. He told of 
his combats. "When Rockwell was 
on the lines," he said, "no German 
passed, but on the contrary was forced 
to seek a refuge on the ground." 

Rockwell made the esprit of the 
escadrille, and the Captain voiced the 
sentiments of us all when, in announc- 
ing his death, he said: "The best and 
bravest of us all is no more." 

How does the war look to you — as 
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FLYING FOE FRANCE 

regards duration? We are figuring 
on about ten more months, but then 
it may be ten more years. Of late 
things are much brighter and one can 
feel a certain elation in the air. Vic- 
tory, before, was a sort of academic 
certainty; now, it's felt. 



139 



CHAPTER IV 

HOW FRANCE TRAINS PILOT AVIATORS 

France now has thousands of men 
training to become military aviators, 
and the flying schools, of which there 
is a very great number, are turning 
out pilots at an astounding rate. 

The process of training a man to be 
a pilot aviator naturally varies in 
accordance with the type of machine 
on which he takes his first instruction, 
and so the methods of the various 
schools depend on the apparatus upon 
which they teach an eleve pilote — as 
an embryonic aviator is called — to fly. 

In the case of the larger biplanes, a 
student goes up in a dual-control 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

airplane, accompanied by an old 
pilot, who, after first taking him on 
many short trips, then allows him 
part, and later full, control, and who 
immediately corrects any false moves 
made by him. After that, short, 
straight, line flights are made alone in 
a smaller-powered machine by the 
student, and, following that, the train- 
ing goes on by degrees to the point 
where a certain mastery of the ap- 
paratus is attained. Then follows 
the prescribed "stunts" and voyages 
necessary to obtain the military 
brevet. 

TRAINING FOR PURSUIT AIRPLANES 

The method of training a pilot for a 

small, fast avion de chasse, as a fighting 

airplane is termed, is quite different, 

and as it is the most thorough and in- 

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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

teresting I will take that course up in 
greater detail. 

The man who trains for one of these 
machines never has the advantage of 
going first into the air in a double-con- 
trol airplane. He is alone when he 
first leaves the earth, and so the train- 
ing preparatory to that stage is very 
carefully planned to teach a man the 
habit of control in such a way that all 
the essential movements will come 
naturally when he first finds himself 
face to face with the new problems the 
air has set for him. In this prepara- 
tory training a great deal of weeding 
out is effected, for a man's aptitude 
for the work shows up, and unless he is 
by nature especially well fitted he is 
transferred to the division which 
teaches one to fly the larger and safer 
machines. 

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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

First of all, the student is put on 
what is called a roller. It is a low- 
powered machine with very small 
wings. It is strongly built to stand 
the rough wear it gets, and no matter 
how much one might try it could 
not leave the ground. The ap- 
paratus is jokingly and universally 
known as a Penguin, both because of 
its humorous resemblance to the 
quaint arctic birds and its inability in 
common with them to do any flying. 
A student makes a few trips up and 
down the field in a double-control 
Penguin, and learns how to steer with 
his feet. Then he gets into a single- 
seated one and, while the rapidly 
whirling propeller is pulling him along, 
tries to keep the Penguin in a straight 
line. The slightest mistake or de- 
layed movement will send the machine 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

skidding off to the right or left, and 
sometimes, if the motor is not stopped 
in time, over on its side or back. 
Something is always being broken on a 
Penguin, and so a reserve flock is kept 
at the side of the field in order that no 
time may be lost. 

After one is able to keep a fairly 
straight line, he is put on a Penguin 
that moves at a faster rate, and after 
being able to handle it successfully 
passes to a very speedy one, known as 
the "rapid." Here one learns to keep 
the tail of the machine at a proper 
angle by means of the elevating lever, 
and to make a perfectly straight line. 
When this has been accomplished and 
the monitor is thoroughly convinced 
that the student is absolutely certain 
of making no mistakes in guiding with 
his feet, the young aviator is passed 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

on to the class which teaches him how 
to leave the ground. As one passes 
from one machine to another one 
finds that the foot movements must 
be made smaller and smaller. The in- 
creased speed makes the machine 
more and more responsive to the 
rudder, and as a result the foot move- 
ments become so gentle when one gets 
into the air that they must come in- 
stinctively. 

FIRST FLIGHTS ALONE 

The class where one will leave the 
ground has now been reached, and an 
outfit of leather clothes and casque 
is given to the would-be pilot. The 
machines used at this stage are low- 
powered monoplanes of the Bleriot 
type, which, though being capable of 
leaving the ground, cannot rise more 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

than a few feet. They do not run 
when the wind is blowing or when 
there are any movements of air from 
the ground, for though a great deal of 
balancing is done by correcting with 
the rudder, the student knows nothing 
of maintaining the lateral stability, 
and if caught in the air by a bad 
movement would be apt to sustain a 
severe accident. He has now only to 
learn how to take the machine off the 
ground and hold it at a low line of 
flight for a few moments. 

For the first time one is strapped 
into the seat of the machine, and this 
continues to be the case from this 
point on. The motor is started, and 
one begins to roll swiftly along the 
ground. The tail is brought to an 
angle slightly above a straight line. 
Then one sits tight and waits. Sud- 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

denly the motion seems softer, the 
motor does not roar so loudly, and the 
ground is slipping away. The class 
standing at the end of the line looks 
far below; the individuals are very 
small, but though you imagine you are 
going too high, you must not push 
to go down more than the smallest 
fraction, or the machine will dive and 
smash. The small push has brought 
you down with a bump from a seem- 
ingly great height. In reality you 
have been but three feet off the 
ground. Little by little the student 
becomes accustomed to leaving the 
ground, for these short hop-skip-and- 
jump flights, and has learned how to 
steer in the air. 

If he has no bad smash-ups he is 
passed on to a class where he rises 
higher, and is taught the rudiments of 
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FLYING FOR FRANCE 

landing. If, after a few days, that act 
is reasonably performed and the 
young pilot does not land too hard, he 
is passed to the class where he goes 
about sixty feet high, maintains his 
line of flight for five or six minutes and 
learns to make a good landing from 
that height. He must by this time be 
able to keep his machine on the line 
of flight without dipping and rising, 
and the landings must be uniformly 
good. The instructor takes a great 
deal of time showing the student the 
proper line of descent, for the landings 
must be perfect before he can pass on. 
Now comes the class where the pilot 
rises three or four hundred feet high 
and travels for more than two miles in 
a straight line. Here he is taught how 
to combat air movements and main- 
tain lateral stability. All the flying 
148 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

up to this point has been done in a 
straight line, but now comes the class 
where one is taught to turn. Ma- 
chines in this division are almost as 
high powered as a regular flying 
machine, and can easily climb to two 
thousand feet. The turn is at first 
very wide, and then, as the student 
becomes more confident, it is done 
more quickly, and while the machine 
leans at an angle that would frighten 
one if the training in turning had not 
been gradual. When the pilot can 
make reasonably close right and left 
turns, he is told to make figure eights. 
After doing this well he is sent to the 
real flying machines. 

There is nothing in the way of a 

radical step from the turns and figure 

eights to the real flying machines. It 

is a question of becoming at ease in 

149 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the better and faster airplanes tak~ 
ing greater altitudes, making little 
trips, perfecting landings, and master- 
ing all the movements of correction 
that one is forced to make. Finally 
one is taught how to shut off and start 
one's motor again in the air, and then 
to go to a certain height, shut off the 
motor, make a half-turn while drop- 
ping and start the motor again. After 
this, one climbs to about two thou- 
sand feet and, shutting off the motor, 
spirals down to within five hundred 
feet of the ground. When that has 
been practised sufficiently, a register- 
ing altitude meter is strapped to the 
pilot's back and he essays the official 
spiral, in which one must spiral all 
the way to earth with the motor off, 
and come to a stop within a few yards 
of a fixed point on the aviation 
150 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

grounds. After this, the student 
passes to the voyage machines, which 
are of almost twice the power of the 
maehine used for the short trips and 
spirals. 

TESTS FOR THE MILITARY BREVET 

There are three voyages to make. 
Two consist in going to designated 
towns an hour or so distant and re- 
turning. The third voyage is a tri- 
angle. A landing is made at one 
point and the other two points are 
only necessary to cross. In addition, 
there are two altitudes of about seven 
thousand feet each that one has to 
attain either while on the voyages or 
afterward. 

The young pilot has not, up to this 
point, had any experience on trips, 
151 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

and there is always a sense of adven- 
ture in starting out over unknown 
country with only a roller map to 
guide one and the gauges and controls, 
which need constant attention, to 
distract one from the reading of the 
chart. Then, too, it is the first time 
that the student has flown free and 
at a great height over the earth, and 
his sense of exultation at navigating 
at will the boundless sky causes him 
to imagine he is a real pilot. True it 
is that when the voyages and altitudes 
are over, and his examinations in 
aeronautical sciences passed, the stu- 
dent becomes officially a pilote- 
aviateur, and he can wear two little 
gold-woven wings on his collar to 
designate his capacity, and carry a 
winged propeller emblem on his arm, 
but he is not ready for the difficult 
152 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

work of the front, and before he has 
time to enjoy more than a few days' 
rest he is sent to a school of perfec- 
tionnement. There the real, serious 
and thorough training begins. 

Schools where the pilots are trained 
on the modern machines — ecoles de 
perfedionnement as they are called — 
are usually an annex to the centres 
where the soldiers are taught to fly, 
though there are one or two camps 
that are devoted exclusively to giving 
advanced instruction to aviators who 
are to fly the avions de chasse, or 
fighting machines. When the aviator 
enters one of these schools he is a 
breveted pilot, and he is allowed a 
little more freedom than he enjoyed 
during the time he was learning to fly. 

He now takes up the Morane mono- 
plane. It is interesting to note that 
153 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

the German Fokker is practically a 
copy of this machine. After flying 
for a while on a low-powered Morane 
and having mastered the landing, the 
pilot is put on a new, higher-powered 
model of the same make. He has a 
good many hours of flying, but his 
trips are very short, for the whole 
idea is to familiarize one with the 
method of landing. The Bleriot has 
a landing gear that is elastic in action, 
and it is easy to bring to earth. The 
Nieuport and other makes of small, 
fast machines for which the pilot is 
training have a solid wheel base, and 
good landings are much more difficult 
to make. The Morane pilot has the 
same practices climbing to small alti- 
tudes around eight thousand feet and 
picking his landing from that height 
with motor off. When he becomes 
154 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

proficient in flying the single- and 
double-plane types he leaves the school 
for another, where shooting with ma- 
chine guns is taught. 

This course in shooting familiarizes 
one with various makes of machine 
guns used on airplanes, and one 
learns to shoot at targets from the air. 
After two or three weeks the pilot is 
sent to another school of combat. 

TRICK FLYING AND DOING STUNTS 

These schools of combat are con*- 
nected with the ecoles de perfectionne^- 
ment with which the pilot has finished. 
In the combat school he learns battle 
tactics, how to fight singly and in 
fleet formation, and how to extract 
himself from a too dangerous position. 
Trips are made in squadron formation 
and sham battles are effected with 
155 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

other escadrilles, as the smallest unit 
of an aerial fleet is called. For the 
first time the pilot is allowed to do 
fancy flying. He is taught how to 
loop the loop, slide on his wings or 
tail, go into corkscrews and, more 
important, to get out of them, and is 
encouraged to try new stunts. 

Finally the pilot is considered well 
enough trained to be sent to the re- 
serve, where he waits his call to the 
front. At the reserve he flies to keep 
his hand in, practises on any new 
make of machine that happens to 
come out or that he may be put on in 
place of the Nieuport, and receives 
information regarding old and new 
makes of enemy airplanes. 

At last the pilot receives his call 
to the front, where he takes his place 
in some established or newly formed 
156 



FLYING FOR FRANCE 

escadrille. He is given a new machine 
from the nearest airplane reserve 
centre, and he then begins his active 
service in the war, which, if he sur- 
vives the course, is the best school of 
them all. 



THE END 



167